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Mary Wollstonecraft gets a green plaque at Newington Green Primary... will statue be next?

MP backs campaign to honour pioneering feminist with a ‘Mary in the Green’ memorial

Published: 11 March, 2011
by TOM FOOT

A CAMPAIGN has been launched to celebrate the mother of British feminism with a statue in Islington.

Newington Green Action Group (NGAG) wants to ensure a lasting legacy to human rights champion Mary Wollstonecraft.

The 18th-century writer – author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women – lived in a “radical village of dissenters” where Newington Green is today. She wrote books about education while living there and set up a boarding school for girls in 1784.

Speaking on BBC4’s Women’s Hour yesterday (Thursday), Mary on the Green committee member Roberta Wedge said: “It’s important we recognise significant women everywhere – for wom­en’s rights and what we would now call human rights. And she was also a pioneering educator, a pedagogue. Thoughts on the Education of Our Daughters was written while she was in Newington Green. 

“They were pivotal those few years spent in that little isolated village, a couple of miles from London at that point. There were radical dissenters living there and prosperous merchants. They valued hard work, women and sobriety. It was very different to the violent father she grew up with.”

Wollstonecraft was born in Spitalfields in 1759. She fell in love with another girl, Fanny Blood, and opened the boarding school in Islington partly so she could live with her there in peace. 

A green plaque to Wollstonecraft was un­veiled at Newington Green Primary School, near the site of the pioneering feminist’s school, on Tuesday as part of International Women’s Day celebrations.

While living in Islington, Wollstonecraft made friends with Richard Price, a minister at the local dissenting chapel. Price and his friend Joseph Priestley were the leaders of a group of men known as Rational Dissenters. 

Wollstonecraft married the philosopher William Godwin in March 1797 but died in September the same year, 10 days after giving birth to a daughter, Mary, later Mary Shelley, who wrote the Gothic thriller Frankenstein.

The calls for “Mary in the Green” reached Parliament on Wednesday when Islington North Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn tabled an Early Day Motion. It read: “That this House believes her memory would be enhanced by an appropriate sculpture on Newington Green as a symbol of her great work – A Vindication of the Rights of Women.”

A spokeswoman for NGAG said: “Despite the significance of Mary Wollstonecraft’s life and work, there has never been a public memorial statue of her anywhere. 

“The location of her home on Newington Green, where her radical ideas about women’s equality, education and politics were first formed, seems a logical place for a permanent memorial to such an important and influential woman.”

Designs submissions will begin in May and it is hoped unveiling will be in the spring of 2013.

For details at www.newingtongreen.org.uk

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