November 18

Statue unveiled of Mary Wollstonecraft is a great boost for modern feminism

Buried amidst the coverage of the US election, you may have seen a story about a statue. This was of particular excitement to me, because it meant that Mary Wollstonecraft, a feminist heroine at Blackheath High School and namesake of our speaker series and enrichment programme, was finally trending on Twitter. After a decade of campaigning and fund-raising, the ‘Mary on the Green’ campaign, spear-headed by Bee Rowlatt, unveiled a statue in honour of Mary Wollstonecraft on Stoke Newington Green, where Wollstonecraft used to hear radicals preach.

Bee Rowlatt, the tour de force behind the campaign for the first statue in honour of Mary Wollstonecraft, actually participated in our Wollstonecraft speaker series, with a joint lecture and art exhibition in 2019. So we have been following the ‘Mary on the Green’ campaign with interest and have indeed, contributed to the fund raising campaign too.

The final statue in her honour, has received mixed reviews to say the least and I feel I need to see it ‘in the flesh’, as it were, before I make up my mind. What gives me great pleasure, nonetheless, is that we are all talking about the legacy of Mary Wollstonecraft and what would make a fitting tribute. Long overlooked as a historical figure, her life is absolutely fascinating. Considered to be the mother of modern feminism, her personal story is as exciting and intriguing as any TV drama series and tragically ends when she died of septicaemia, after she gave birth to her second daughter, Mary, who would go on to become the celebrated author Mary Shelley. Her pioneering willingness to question society’s norms, her courage and her fearsome intellect make her a fitting namesake for our speaker series.

If you, or your daughters, would like to know more, Charlotte Gordon’s book is a good place to start. Charlotte also featured in the Wollstonecraft Speaker Series, introducing her biography to our students in 2018.

Whatever your view of her new tribute, the best way we can honour her, is to keep her spirit alive and Blackheath High School will certainly be doing that through our Wollstonecraft Speaker Series that encourages the students to question, make brave choices and to nurture their intellect.

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