Tuesday, 22 March 2011
On International Women's Day the other week a green plaque was unveiled in a square down the road in memory of writer and educator Mary Wollstonecraft on what is thought to be the site of the school she set up in the 18th century. Wollstonecraft packed a lot into her 38 years. Her book A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792) is considered one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy and led her, eventually, to be called the mother of feminism. (Is there also a father of feminism? I think probably not.)
By coming to live at Newington Green she came into contact, through Richard Price, minister of the neighbouring Dissenting Church (still functioning next to the tasty Belle Epoque patisserie), with such figures as Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and Adam Smith. If you weren't radicalised before meeting this lot, you would be soon afterwards, wouldn't you? Her life was short, unconventional, and more inspirational than she could have possibly imagined.
The new plaque, which looks over the southbound bus-stop on the east side of the green, is perhaps just the beginning: a campaign is underway to erect a statue of Wollstonecraft in the square, and this recent letter to the Guardian is proof there's a lot of support for this plan.
I have a few drawings on this blog, A Vindication of the Rights of Mary, which is a good place to find out more about Wollstonecraft.