Women Sleuths in
Historical Mysteries

Ireland - 1786


Midnight Fires
A Mystery with Mary Wollstonecraft

by Nancy Means Wright

Author Wright has admirably fictionalized one of the icon’s of women’s rights. In this first story in her upcoming series, Mary Wollstonecraft is forced to cross the Irish Sea to take employment as governess in the County Cork manor of the Anglo-Irish Kingsborough family. Her mother is dead, the males in her life have abandoned her, and her sisters are nagging her for money.

Already a published writer of “Thoughts on the Education of Daughters,” Mary finds her status as governess demeaning. As she notes, “governesses were heard to constitute one of the largest classes of insane women in asylums.” In spite of her servant status, feisty Mary almost eagerly becomes involved with the tensions in Ireland, starting with her witness of the stabbing of an aristocrat at an annual pagan festival. Trying to connect with her mother’s Irish side, Mary finds common cause with the Irish freedom fighters, the Defenders, who, after the horrors of Cromwell, the massacres, and the impoverishment of tenants through exorbitant “rackrents,” claim that the English seem determined to make slaves of them.

Wright provides rich details of peasant women’s lives, from their work in dark, smoke filled earthen homes to the sexual vulnerability of the servants and tenants who “belong” to the aristocratic males. She also credibly captures the manners, dress, and smells of those living both inside and out of the great homes.

A full afterword is provided detailing the future lives of individuals portrayed in the story. Available too are Wollstonecraft, Donovan, and Kingsborough family charts, and a bibliography.


The Nightmare, the next book in the Mary Wollestonecraft series places the author in London from 1787 to 1792. Outside of the publicatin of the Vindication of the Rights of Women, which brought fame as well as infamy to the authoress, there are a few substantive facts about Wollestonecraft. Nancy Means Wright thus fills these years with tales about an amazon-like woman fighting for justice in an England in which there is little. Helpful biograhical notes on the real characters in the novel is provided.

See our primary source “Mary Wollstonecraft Debates Jean-Jacque Rousseau,” - part of the lesson on teaching women’s rights.


Lyn Reese is the author of all the information on this website
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