London: Printed for J. Johnson, 1798. First edition. Rebound in library buckram with new endpapers. Spine sunned and bearing a handwritten library label. Memphis Cossitt Public Library pocket and discard stamp to front pastedown. Library stamps to front and rear of title page and advertisement leaf. Title page and first page of content both repaired at upper corners not affecting text. Handcolored illustrations mounted to page 92 (a blank). Toned throughout with some marginal dampstaining not affecting text. Collates [viii], vi, 300: lacking half title and original endpapers, else complete. Scarce surviving copy of the first issue of Mary Hays' anonymous work on women's equality, of which ESTC records only 6 at institutions (of these, 2 in the U.S.). With no copies in the modern auction record and this the only copy on the market, Hays' work urging the support of male allies is a rarity.
Most widely recognized for her feminist collection Female Biography (1802), Mary Hays was a contemporary of Mary Wollstonecraft and similarly sought to improve conditions for women. "Her most radical work was Appeal to the Men of Great Britain in Behalf of Women, in which she argued that there were no scriptural or rational arguments to justify the continued subjection of women" (ODNB). Submitting her appeal for women's rights "to you fathers, brothers, husbands, sons, and lovers," Hays also acknowledges that equality is not a cause that can be accomplished by women alone. Rather, the very people who say they love liberty and yet deny it to women must become allies, setting aside political and social superiorty for the betterment of humanity and the nation. "It may at first appear absurd to address the following pages in behalf of women to the men of Great Britain; whose apparent interest it perhaps is, in common with that of all other men, that things should remain on the footing that they are. But the men of Great Britain...have to their everlasting honor, always been remarkable for an ardent love of liberty." By pointing out the hypocrisy of freedom-loving men denying that power to others, including women, Hays takes and maintains a logical argumentative stance. Avoiding sentiment, she instead focuses on the legal and social double standards that prevent a significant portion of the population from obtaining personal fulfillment or fully contributing their talents to the nation. (Item #2810)