Romantic Outlaws

This groundbreaking dual biography brings to life a pioneering English feminist and the daughter she never knew. Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley has each been the subject of numerous biographies. Yet no author has ever examined their lives in one book — until now.

Mary Wollstonecraft died in 1797, ten days after giving birth to her second daughter. Five years earlier, Wollstonecraft had won fame by proclaiming the rights of women in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Her daughter Mary was to follow a similarly audacious path, publishing Frankenstein at age nineteen. Brave, passionate, and visionary, Wollstonecraft and Shelley broke almost every rule there was to break. They had scandalous love affairs, bore children out of wedlock and chose to live in exile outside their native country. Each in her own time fought against the injustices women faced and wrote books that changed literary history.

Romantic Outlaws interweaves their lives in alternating chapters, taking readers on a vivid journey across Revolutionary France and Victorian England, from the seaports of Italy to the highlands of Scotland.

The cast of characters also includes the men in their lives, including the mercurial genius Percy Shelley, the unbridled libertine Lord Byron, and the brilliant, radical William Godwin.

In a book that reads like a richly textured historical novel, Gordon reveals for the first time the defiant, creative lives of this daring mother-daughter pair who refused to be confined by the rigid conventions of their era.


“Wordsworth and Byron must step aside to make room for two brilliant women, Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Shelley, early and late Romantics whose remarkable contributions to their time and ours lend Gordon’s artfully twined tale special significance.”

Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 
Margaret Fuller: A New American Life  and The Peabody Sisters


Foreign Editions


united kingdom EDITION
Published in the UK by Random House

"The engrossing dual biography of the famous mother and daughter who never knew one another is told in alternating chapters so as to enable the reader to "hear the echo of Wollstonecraft in Shelley's letters, journals and novels," and to show how Wollstonecraft addressed herself to the future and to the daughter she planned to raise. Through this parallel portrait, Gordon shows how both mother and daughter attempted to free themselves from the stranglehold of polite society, while struggling to balance their need to be loved with their need for independence."

The Bookseller

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“Madre e hija compartieron el amor por las letras y un compromiso por resolver las injusticias que sufrían las mujeres en sus respectivas épocas. Ahora, una biografía dual escrita por Charlotte Gordon recupera la historia de esta relación maternofilial entre la filósofa y la autora de Frankenstein.”

El Mundo

“Esta biografía de reciente publicación desentraña la relación de dos escritoras y feministas, madre e hija, que compartieron tan solo diez días en el mundo.”

10 libros sobre mujeres que cambiaron el curso de la historia, CARMEN G. de la CUEVA
El Pais Librotea

Polish Edition

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