First Feminists? Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz and Mary Wollstonecraft

In her article, “Juxtaposing Lives: Mary Wollstonecraft And Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz”, Breny Mendoza discusses parallels between Mary Wollstonecraft and Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, including how both women contributed to early feminism. Both women have often been regarded as the first feminist of modern times, in their own rights, but Wollstonecraft has received larger scholarship and celebration, I’ll briefly discuss why I believe this is.

To begin with, Wollstonecraft was a mid-to-late 18th century writer, whereas Cruz was a 17th century scholar, nun, and writer. Wollstonecraft had some privilege over Cruz. Although both lived in times of feminine oppression and fought against that, Wollstonecraft was a white English woman, and Cruz was a Spanish nun who faced a lot of scrutiny from the Church.

I think language plays a role to some degree. Publications written in English, like Wollstonecraft’s, would have reached a larger circulation in a shorter time than Cruz’s works which began publication in Spain. Because Cruz’s texts needed to be translated, that’s one barrier she faced. Another barrier Cruz faced was her circumstances: having to join a nunnery to avoid being forced into marriage, having the watchful eyes of the Church and the immense pressure from them, being forced to sell her library. A lot of her works have been lost, whether temporarily or permanently due to her circumstances and the problems she faced.

Both Wollstonecraft and Cruz faced oppression and fought for women’s rights, but they did so with different barriers and those factors undoubtedly contribute to how widely each one is studied and known.

  • Mendoza, B. (2007). “Juxtaposing Lives: Mary Wollstonecraft And Sor Juana Inés De La Cruz .” Women’s Studies Quarterly, 35(3), [287-291

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