Portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie (c.1797). Wikimedia Commons
Portrait of Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie (c.1797). Wikimedia Commons

A statue of Mary Wollstonecraft on Newington Green could finally happen after two political heavy-weights threw their support behind the long-running campaign.

The Education Secretary and Minister for Women Nicky Morgan, as well as the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, have praised the efforts of the Mary on the Green campaign to commission a statue of Enlightenment thinker Wollstonecraft on Newington Green, next to the school where she once taught.

“It’s time we celebrated the women who have shaped our country,” Mr Corbyn said. “Let’s start with a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft – one of the great pioneers of women’s equality.”

Mr Corbyn described as “shocking” how the vast majority of statues and memorials in the UK depict men, adding: “It is time to redress the balance and honour the millions of women who have transformed Britain for the better.”

The Independent last weekend reported that the Department for Education may get involved with the campaign to commemorate Wollstonecraft, who in the late 18th century penned the philosophical treatise A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.

“Nicky Morgan’s people have expressed an interest. They’re looking over our numbers and we’re really excited about that support,” said Bee Rowlatt, chair of Mary on the Green.

Asked to comment by the East End Review, Ms Morgan said:

“We need to make sure girls grow up seeing influential women like this represented – in literature, through education and among the statues we have to celebrate the work and sacrifice of our most influential figures.

“I welcome any efforts to raise this important issue and ensure that women take their rightful place in our cultural history.”

As the spokesperson for Mary on the Green, whose supporters number the likes of Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, and the broadcaster Melvyn Bragg, Ms Rowlatt said that it was important that Wollstonecraft be celebrated in the part of London that helped form her radical views.

“She lived in this radical community of extraordinary people like Richard Pryce and where she became a writer and the huge Enlightenment philosopher for which we value her today.

“People say, ‘Why a statue? Why not equal pay or FGM? But this is about visibility of women, and a headcount of London statues shows that nine out of 10 of them are of men.

“She’s an icon of social mobility and I think it’s really important that a woman of her stature, who came from nowhere and achieved so much but is yet to be recognised, is visible.”


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