Mary Wollstonecraft, Feminist Killjoy

This essay takes up the longstanding association between Wollstonecraft, feminism, and joylessness via feminist critic Sara Ahmed’s ironic appropriation of the term “feminist killjoy.” I argue that Wollstonecraft’s specific claim to being a killjoy can be traced to the mid-twentieth century, when two American ego psychologists, obsessed with what they called Wollstonecraft’s “twisted personality,” seized on her personal biography with a determined vengeance in their book Modern Woman: The Lost Sex (1947), and forged the still unbreakable link between Wollstonecraft and the annihilation of joy.