Fiercely intelligent self-educated polemicist, she became one of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment, firing the opening shots in the long battle for sexual equality. But in her private life she was an archetypal Romantic heroine, loving and betrayed, a solitary traveller with a tragic destiny. Opie's portrait catches her momentarily serene in pregnancy: within months she died giving birth to her equally renowned daughter, Mary Shelley.
! Claire Tomalin by Jillian Edelstein, 1989 cJillian Edelstein. Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie, c1797 cNPG. The NPG has produced a pack of 25 pull-out postcards. Now on sale (pounds 5) in the NPG shop, or by mail order (0171 306 0055, x280/ fax 0171 306 0092). Add pounds 1 p&p for up to two packs, pounds 1.50 thereafter.