1 December 2018 Susannah

A Mary Wollstonecraft Statue

Competing designs for the Mary on the Green sculpture campaign. index.shtml

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.

Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie

Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie

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

   The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft by Claire Tomalin
   Vindication: A Life of Mary Wollstonecraft by Lyndall Gordon
   In Search of Mary: The Mother of all Journeys by Bee Rowlatt

I only recommend books I have read and know. Some of these links are my affiliate links. If you buy a book by clicking on one of these links I receive a small commission. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, but does help cover the cost of producing my free newsletter.


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Featured image credit- Competing designs for the Mary on the Green sculpture campaign, https://www.maryonthegreen.org/index.shtml
Body image credit- Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie, by John Opie, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=970256

Comments (7)

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks so much for sending that to me, Donna. Looks like the male / female balance is very slowly being redressed.

  1. Penny Morris

    While Maggi Hambling’s statue is a lovely piece of sculpture, Martin’s tells the viewer why Mary Wollstonecraft is important – namely for literature. The design appears to have seating around the statue which makes it a nice way of offering time for contemplation. Martin’s would have had my vote too.

  2. Brian Doyle

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll keep saying it only louder,why were you not asked which one.
    Vote one Martin

  3. Patricia Farrar

    A recent issue of Philosophy Now had a very good article on Mary Wollstonecraft.

  4. pam blackwell

    Definitely Martin’s. As the writer above says, it shows why she is important. What really does a statue of a naked woman tell you except that it is much more socially acceptable to put naked women on show than it is to put naked men. And that’s my rant for the day!

  5. pam blackwell

    Me again. It also tells me that the judging panel was probably made up of only men. Not that I am at all against men but really why do we keep doing this to women. Making them just a body rather than a person who actually had an amazing talent.

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