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New Mary campaign calls for rejected statue to be installed

After monument to pioneer writer splits opinion, fresh fundraising drive begins

20 November, 2020 — By Helen Chapman

Martin Jennings’ statue design

FANS of the 18th century feminist Mary Wollstonecraft are looking to revive a mothballed statue idea after being left disappointed by a new monument honouring the writer.

It took 10 years for the Mary on the Green campaign to finally see Maggi Hambling’s sculpture un­veiled earlier this month.

But the final design in Newington Green has led to sharply divided opinions with some critics going as far as trying to cover up a naked figure created by the artist.

Organisers said that the new installation was a tribute to Ms Wollstonecraft rather than a statue of her. But amid the furore, a new fundraising drive has emerged in an attempt to get sculptor Martin Jennings’ alternative statue erected.

The new sculpture at Newington Green. Photo: Joana Marinescu

Mr Jennings had reached the final two in the original campaign’s shortlist before missing out to Ms Hambling’s idea. He had set out a plan for a more traditional statue of Ms Wollstonecraft.

An online fundraiser has already seen £3,000 donated with organisers hoping to find a local authority willing to support the idea.

Ms Wollstonecraft also had links with Camden where a road in King’s Cross was named after her.

Richard Cotton, a Labour councillor in the neighbouring borough, said this week: “Isn’t it time that we had a statue here in Camden to one of the most influential women this country has ever produced – preferably one that does not trivialise her achievements or objectify her womanhood by showing her naked?”

Mary Wollstonecraft

Organisers of the new campaign backing Mr Jennings’ vision said on their fundraising page: “We wish to honour a woman who gave so much to the women who came after her. We became aware of the stunning design by artist Martin Jennings online and decided that it was too lovely a tribute to a great woman to miss the opportunity of having in England.”

The statement added: “In the meantime, we have spoken to the wonderful Martin Jennings and he is still willing to make this exceptional piece, so now we need to raise the necessary funds.”

They are looking to raise £144,000 for the statue with £10,000 to cover potential landscaping fees.

Any left-over funds will be donated to women’s charity Women at the Well say campaigners.

Mr Jennings is known for statues of John Betjeman at St Pancras Internnational station and Mary Seacole at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote the groundbreaking A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, 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.

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