Mary Shelley Biography

Mary Shelley (her unmarried name was Mary Godwin) was born in 1797. Her father was the political philosopher William Godwin, and her mother the philosopher and feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. Mary’s mother died when she was just eleven days old, so she and her half-sister Fanny were raised by her father, who provided his daughters with a rich, though informal, education, encouraging them in his liberal political theories.

In 1814 Mary began a romantic relationship with one of her father’s political followers, the poet Percy Shelley. Shelley was married, but left his wife Harriet to travel through Europe with Mary and her stepsister Claire.

In 1816 Mary and Percy Shelley spent a summer near Geneva in Switzerland, where Mary conceived the idea for Frankenstein. In 1822 Percy Shelley drowned when his sailing boat sank during a storm, and a year later Mary returned to England and devoted herself to the upbringing of their only surviving son and a career as a professional author. For many years her writings were not considered important, mostly because she was a woman. Indeed, many people asserted that Frankenstein must have been written by Percy Shelley as Mary couldn’t possibly have written anything so good.