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Shhh! Statue of Wollstonecraft to be unveiled

Newington Green’s 10ft tribute to 18th-century feminist follows decade-long campaign

30 October, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Mary Wollstonecraft and the statue by Maggi Hambling

A STATUE of the 18th-century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft will be unveiled next month, 10 years after the campaign began.

Organisers of the project in Newington Green selected a 10ft design by artist Maggi Hambling, who turned 75 last Friday and is also known for a sculpture unveiled near Trafalgar Square of Oscar Wilde in 1998.

Currently, only one in 10 statues in London is of a woman.

Due to the pandemic and social distancing restrictions details of the unveiling event are being kept quiet to discourage large gatherings but friends and supporters are encouraged to join online celebrations of the occasion.

Mary on the Green campaign chairwoman Bee Rowlatt, who has written a biography of Wollstonecraft, said: “We really can’t encourage people to show up. It is unfortunate we cannot celebrate as we wish but we hope by doing something online it will be democratic – the huge Wollstonecraft fan club all around the world can join in.”

Wollstonecraft wrote the groundbreaking A Vindication of the Rights of Women, which set out a vision of women being treated equally to men. She attended services at the Newington Green Meeting House and set up a school for women’s education, now Newington Green School.

Maggi Hambling

After the statue unveiling next month, Ms Rowlatt says hopes for educational activities at the New Unity in Newington Green Meeting House will take place to keep the Wollstonecraft legacy alive.

Projects have also taken place at Newington Green Primary School, whose pupils were expected to attend the unveiling prior to the pandemic.

Maggi Hambling, whose work has been shown at Somerset House and the National Gallery, said: “This sculpture encourages a visual conversation with the obstacles Wollstonecraft overcame, the ideals she strived for, and what she made happen. A vital contemporary discourse for all that is still to be achieved.”

Ms Hambling’s figure depicts an “everywoman”, and will feature Mary Wollstonecraft’s words: “I do not wish women to have power over men but over themselves.”

A BBC documentary about Ms Hambling was aired last week detailing her career – her work is held in many public collections including the Tate, the British Museum, the National Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and the V&A.

Ms Rowlatt added: “Wollstonecraft’s political legacy is huge – her ideas changed the world. It took courage to fight for human rights and education for all, even more so for someone of Wollstonecraft’s gender and background. But following her early death in childbirth her legacy was buried, in a sustained misogynistic attack. Today we are finally putting this injustice to rights.”

The Mary on the Green campaign started in 2010 and raised more than £120,000 for the project. They received £15,000 from the People’s Postcode Lottery last year and were donated £30,000 from finance investment group BlackRock.

An online cele­bra­tion will be taking place on November 10 at 7pm. For more details go to @MaryWOnTheGreen on Facebook and @maryonthegreen on Twitter.

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