Frankenstein Day; or, The Birthday of Mary Shelley


On August 30, 1797, in London, England, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin was born to Mary Wollstonecraft and William Godwin. Ten days later, her mother died, leaving her to be raised by her father, a political philosopher and novelist. She didn't receive formal education but was surrounded by an intellectual community and was encouraged by her father to write. 

In 1912 at age 14, Mary met poet and future-husband Percy Bysshe Shelley, 5 years older and an admirer of her father's writing. Two years later, they began a courtship not approved of by Mary's father, and would meet at her mother's grave in the St. Pancras churchyard until they eloped in July 1814. Mary and Percy began a daily journal that she kept writing in through 1844, and that she anonymously published in 1817 called History of a Six Weeks' Tour of France, Switzerland, and Germany. They initially return to England in September of 1814 with Mary pregnant, but it was not their only visit to Europe.

It was in June of 1816 during a trip to Geneva, Switzerland where Mary conceived of Frankenstein and his monster from a "waking dream" during a ghost-writing contest with her husband and their friends. When it was first published in 1818, critics believed it had been written by a man, some assuming it was her Mr. Shelley instead. Initial public analysis of Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was focused through the lens of then-current politics. Now interpretations range from a mythical focus, as suggested by the mention of Prometheus, to considerations of women's experiences of oppression, repression, and motherhood.

Mary Shelley had four children, but only the fourth child lived past infancy. Percy Shelley drowned in 1822, which left financial control to his father Sir Timothy Shelley. Mary was required to return to England and restricted in publishing with the Shelley name. Despite the financial insecurity and control that lasted through 1844, Mary succeeded in financing her son's education and continued writing and publishing for herself and her late husband. During her final years, she continued in her travels before eventually dying of a brain tumor in London at age 53.

In the two centuries since its first publishing, Frankenstein has remained Mary Shelley's best-known work and has been reimagined in numerous adaptations across all story formats. The popularity of her story has given cause for her birthday to be renamed National Frankenstein Day. While Dr. Frankenstein and his creature may sometimes get confused in name as one and the same, there could never be another Mary Wollenstonecraft Shelley. Celebrate her birthday by reading one of her books!

Factual information from Gale In Context: Biography and Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.


Movie Adaptations for Adults:
Adult DVDs of Frankenstein Adaptations


Movie Adaptations for Kids:
J DVDs Frankenstein Adaptations


Check out these titles about Mary Shelley and Frankenstein (for mixed ages):

In Search of the Real Frankenstein

The History Channel

Examines how the experiments of four scientists--Luigi Galvani, Giovanni Aldini, Andrew Ure, and Konrad Dippel--inspired Mary Shelly's Frankenstein.

Originally produced as an episode of Decoding the Past in 2006 by Wild Dream Films for the History Channel; produced & directed by Stuart Clarke.

Shrunken treasures: literary classics short, sweet, and silly

Scott Nash

Nine weighty literary classics are transformed into delectable morsels with Scott Nash’s playful versification and whimsical illustration.

Can’t stomach all of Frankenstein? Lacking the strength to read The Odyssey? Don’t have 1,001 nights to get through Scheherazade’s ordeal? Never fear, Shrunken Treasures are here! Nine of the world’s best-known stories and books have been reduced, like slowly simmered cherries, to tart and tasty mouthfuls. Lighthearted verse turns Moby-Dick into a simple nursery song. Outrageous color makes even gloomy Hamlet seem like fun. Riotous images transform Jane Eyre’s ordeal into a whirlwind adventure. The Metamorphosis, Remembrance of Things Past, Don Quixote, and others have all been delivered from dense duty to delightful ditty in Scott Nash’s picture book collection of hallowed classics, featuring notes about the original texts at the end.

She made a monster: how Mary Shelley created Frankenstein

Lynn Fulton

Join Mary Shelley on the night she created the most frightening monster the world has ever seen in this children's biography.

On a stormy night two hundred years ago, a young woman sat in a dark house and dreamed of her life as a writer. She longed to follow the path her own mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, had started down, but young Mary Shelley had yet to be inspired.

As the night wore on, Mary grew more anxious. The next day was the deadline that her friend, the poet Lord Byron, had set for writing the best ghost story. After much talk of science and the secrets of life, Mary had gone to bed exhausted and frustrated that nothing she could think of was scary enough. But as she drifted off to sleep, she dreamed of a man that was not a man. He was a monster.

The big book of monsters: the creepiest creatures from classic literature

Hal Johnson

Meet the monsters in this who's who of the baddest of the bad!

Like those supernatural beasts everyone knows and fears-the bloodsucking vampire, Count Dracula, and that eight-foot-tall mash-up of corpses, Frankenstein's Monster. Or that scariest of mummies, Cheops, who scientists revived after 4,700 years-big mistake! Or more horrifying yet, the Horla, an invisible, havoc-wreaking creature that herds humans like cattle and feeds of their souls.

Drawn from the pages of classic books and tales as old as time, this frightfully exciting collection features 25 of the creepiest creatures ever imagined, from witches and werewolves to dragons and ghosts. Every monster is brought to life in a full-size full-color portrait that captures the essence of the beast, and in lively text that recounts the monster's spine-tingling story. With sidebars that explore the history and the genre of each sourcebook, The Big Book of Monsters is an exciting introduction to literature and language arts.

Access the e-book version here.

Mary Shelley: the strange, true tale of Frankenstein's creator

Catherine Reef

On the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein, comes this Young Adult biography of its author, Mary Shelley, whose life reads like a dark gothic novel, filled with scandal, death, drama, and one of the strangest love stories in literary history. 

The story of Frankenstein’s creator is a strange, romantic, and tragic one, as deeply compelling as the novel itself. Mary ran away to Lake Geneva with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley when she was just sixteen. It was there, during a cold and wet summer, that she first imagined her story about a mad scientist who brought a corpse back to life. Success soon followed for Mary, but also great tragedy and misfortune.

Catherine Reef brings this passionate woman, brilliant writer, and forgotten feminist into crisp focus, detailing a life that was remarkable both before and after the publication of her iconic masterpiece.

The Lady and her Monsters: a tale of dissections, real-life Dr. Frankensteins, and the creation of Mary Shelley's masterpiece

Roseanne Montillo

The Lady and Her Monsters by Roseanne Motillo brings to life the fascinating times, startling science, and real-life horrors behind Mary Shelley's gothic masterpiece, Frankenstein.

Montillo recounts how'at the intersection of the Romantic Age and the Industrial Revolution'shelley's Victor Frankenstein was inspired by actual scientists of the period: curious and daring iconoclasts who were obsessed with the inner workings of the human body and how it might be reanimated after death.

With true-life tales of grave robbers, ghoulish experiments, and the ultimate in macabre research'human reanimation'The Lady and Her Monsters is a brilliant exploration of the creation of Frankenstein, Mary Shelley's horror classic.

In Search of Mary Shelley

Fiona Sampson

How it was that a nineteen-year-old came to write a novel so dark, mysterious, anguished, and psychologically astute that it continues to resonate two centuries later?

We know the facts of Mary Shelley's life in some detail--the death of her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, within days of her birth; the upbringing in the house of her father, William Godwin, in a house full of radical thinkers, poets, philosophers, and writers; her elopement, at the age of seventeen, with Percy Shelley; the years of peripatetic travel across Europe that followed. Previous books have ignored the real person--what she actually thought and felt and why she did what she did--despite the fact that Mary and her group of second-generation Romantics were extremely interested in the psychological aspect of life. In this probing narrative, Fiona Sampson pursues Mary Shelley through her turbulent life, much as Victor Frankenstein tracked his monster across the arctic wastes.

Her Lost Words: a novel of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley

Stephanie Thornton

From A Vindication of the Rights of Woman to Frankenstein, a tale of two literary legends—a mother and daughter—discovering each other and finding themselves along the way, from USA Today bestselling author Stephanie Marie Thornton.
1792. As a child, Mary Wollstonecraft longed to disappear during her father’s violent rages. Instead, she transforms herself into the radical author of the landmark volume A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, in which she dares to propose that women are equal to men. From conservative England to the blood-drenched streets of revolutionary France, Mary refuses to bow to society’s conventions and instead supports herself with her pen until an illicit love affair challenges her every belief about romance and marriage. When she gives birth to a daughter and is stricken with childbed fever, Mary fears it will be her many critics who recount her life’s extraordinary odyssey…
1818. The daughter of infamous political philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, passionate Mary Shelley learned to read by tracing the letters of her mother’s tombstone. As a young woman, she desperately misses her mother’s guidance, especially following her scandalous elopement with dashing poet Percy Bysshe Shelley. Mary struggles to balance an ever-complicated marriage with motherhood while nursing twin hopes that she might write something of her own one day and also discover the truth of her mother’s unconventional life. Mary’s journey will unlock her mother’s secrets, all while leading to her own destiny as the groundbreaking author of Frankenstein.
A riveting and inspiring novel about a firebrand feminist, her visionary daughter, and the many ways their words transformed our world.

Access the audiobook and e-book here.

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley

Charlotte Gordon

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) and her daughter Mary Shelley (1797-1851)

These two amazing women never knew each other--Wollstonecraft died of infection at the age of 38, a week after giving birth to her daughter. Nevertheless, their lives were closely intertwined, their choices, dreams and tragedies so eerily similar, it seems impossible to consider one without the other: both became famous writers; both fell in love with brilliant but impossible authors; both were single mothers and had children out of wedlock (a shocking and self-destructive act in their day); both broke out of the rigid conventions of their era and lived in exile; and both played important roles in the Romantic era during which they lived. The lives of both Marys were nothing less than extraordinary, providing fabulous material for Charlotte Gordon. She seamlessly weaves their lives together in back and forth narratives, taking readers on a vivid journey across Revolutionary France and Victorian England, from the Italian seaports to the highlands of Scotland, in a book that reads like a richly textured historical novel.

Making the Monster: The Science Behind Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

Kathryn Harkup

Making the Monster explores the scientific background behind Mary Shelley's book. Is there any science fact behind the science fiction? And how might a real-life Victor Frankenstein have gone about creating his monster?

The year 1818 saw the publication of one of the most influential science-fiction stories of all time. Frankenstein: Or, Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley had a huge impact on gothic horror and science-fiction genres, and her creation has become part of our everyday culture, from cartoons to Hallowe'en costumes. Even the name 'Frankenstein' has become a by-word for evil scientists and dangerous experiments. How did a teenager with no formal education come up with the idea for an extraordinary novel such as Frankenstein? Clues are dotted throughout Georgian science and popular culture. The years before the book's publication saw huge advances in our understanding of the natural sciences, in areas such as electricity and physiology, for example. Sensational science demonstrations caught the imagination of the general public, while the newspapers were full of lurid tales of murderers and resurrectionists.

From tales of volcanic eruptions, artificial life and chemical revolutions, to experimental surgery, 'monsters' and electrical experiments on human cadavers, Kathryn Harkup examines the science and scientists that influenced Shelley, and inspired her most famous creation.

Descriptions adapted from the publisher.
By Sofia on August 21, 2023