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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Mary Shelley

b. 1797, London; d. 1851, London

Daughter of feminist Mary Wollstonecraft and radical philosopher William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley published the most successful and famous work of the Romantic period—the Gothic novel Frankenstein (1818). Inspired by a competition among friends to write the most frightening tale, the novel tells the story of a man who attempts to create human life without a woman, and instead builds a monster. While Frankenstein was by far her most popular novel, she produced several others, including Valperga (1823), about a fictional kingdom committed to socialism; Mathilda, the story of an incestuous relationship between a father and daughter told from the daughter’s perspective (written in 1819 but not published until 1959 because of its controversial content); and The Last Man (1826), about the only survivor of a cholera epidemic that destroys the human race. She also compiled a complete edition of the works of her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley (1839), still used by scholars today.