Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born on August 30, 1797 in Somers Town, London, England. She was the daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft, the early feminist and author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, and William Godwin, the political philosopher and novelist.
Her parents' wedding, which occurred when Wollstonecraft was five months pregnant with Mary, was the marriage of two of the day's most noted freethinkers. While they both objected to the institution of matrimony, they agreed to marry to ensure their child's legitimacy. Ten days after Mary's birth, Wollstonecraft died from complications, leaving Godwin, an undemonstrative and self-absorbed intellectual, to care for both Mary and Fanny Imlay, Wollstonecraft's daughter from an earlier liaison.
Mary's home life improved little with the arrival four years later of a stepmother and her two children. The new Mrs. Godwin, whom contemporaries described as petty and disagreeable, favored her own offspring over the daughters of the celebrated Wollstonecraft, and Mary was often solitary and unhappy. In 1816, Mary's half-sister Fanny committed suicide.