Did you know that more than 90% of the statues around London feature men? Some of those are writers – Shakespeare, Churchill, Wilde, Johnson, Keats, Betjeman, etc?
I was delighted to hear that a new statue will soon be erected, this time of a female writer – Mary Wollstonecraft. It is to be the work of sculptor Maggi Hambling and will stand in the suburb of Newington Green where the pioneering feminist author once lived.
There were two competing designs in the competition – the one by Maggi Hambling is on the right (see image above from https://www.maryonthegreen.org) while the other is by Martin Jennings. Which would you have chosen? I’d have gone for Martin’s myself.
If you want to learn more about this important and intriguing woman, you could try reading Claire Tomalin’s The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft. Everything Claire Tomalin writes is fabulous and this book is no exception. Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft by Lyndall Gordon (another fine biographer) is also well worth reading. I also recently enjoyed In Search of Mary: The Mother of All Journeys by Bee Rowlatt, in which a young mother tries to replicate Mary Wollstonecraft’s journey in Scandinavia in 1796. Mary travelled with a baby, and so does Bee, and her enthusiasm for Mary and all she achieved (on a strange journey which involved trying to locate a stolen treasure ship) is infectious.
It is 100 years since British women gained the right to vote, so a very appropriate time in which to mark Mary Wollstonecraft’s legacy with a statue. I hope to go and see it when I visit London next year.
And on the subject of statues … We waited 200 years for a statue of Jane Austen, but suddenly it seems there will soon be a second one. It will be in Winchester and is by Martin Jennings, whose statue of Mary Wollstonecraft failed to win the competition.
Which of these statues would you have chosen? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.
Susannah Fullerton: Claire Tomalin and Biographies
Susannah Fullerton: The 18th Century – When the English Novel Began
Mary On The Green
The Guardian: Maggi Hambling picked to create Mary Wollstonecraft statue
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