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School’s feminist club pays tribute to pioneer Mary Wollstone­craft

Pupils back Wollstonecraft campaign after learning one in 10 London statues is of a woman

26 April, 2019 — By Emily Finch

From left, Bee Rowlatt, Starlah, Lailie-Ray, Libby, Nico, Maya, Meg, Isla, Berfin, Caitlin, Atlanta, Katy and Lucy Walker-Collins

MEMBERS of a primary school feminist club have backed a fundraising campaign to put up a statue of a women’s rights pioneer in Newington Green after being “really shocked” to learn that just one out of 10 statues in London that depicts women.

The feminist club at Ashmount Primary School, in Crouch Hill, Upper Holloway, made badges and sold cakes last term to raise just over £100 towards a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft in Newington Green.

Pupils were rewarded on Tuesday with a visit from author Bee Rowlatt, who led an assembly on the 18th century philosopher and writer seen as the founder of modern feminism and human rights.

Ms Rowlatt, from Highgate, has written a biography of Wollstone­craft, who opened a school for girls in Newington Green with her sisters.

She said: “I wanted to do an assembly to thank the students and tell them who Mary was and what she achieved in her life. She was an extraordinary local woman. I find her writing phenomenal and so courageous for the time she lived in. Her life is a blockbuster.”

Ms Rowlatt’s book, In Search of Mary: The Mother of All Journeys, chronicles Wollstonecraft’s life by retracing her footsteps through Scandinavia to Paris.

Mary Wollstonecraft

Just before her move to Paris, Mary wrote the groundbreaking A Vindication of the Rights of Men, which presented the case against the aristocracy and those who inherited privileges.

Ms Rowlatt said: “She has a long-standing legacy because she made a case in writing for human rights. Her work was so early there was no term ‘human rights’ yet.”

During her life Wollstonecraft would write novels, a history of the French Revolution and treatises, including A Vindication of the Rights of Women, which set out a vision of women being treated equally to men.

The idea for a feminist club at Ashmount came from ex-students of the primary school who saw similar clubs at their secondary schools. They approached deputy headteacher Lucy Walker-Collins, a staunch feminist.

Ms Walker-Collins said: “The ex-students helped me think about the focus and themes and then we set up the meetings at Tuesday lunchtimes last term. So far, the feminist club has published a newsletter to mark International Women’s Day, taken part in the climate strike by leaving assembly and marching to Crouch End and, most recently, raised money for the Mary on the Green campaign.”

Campaigners from Mary on The Green have so far raised just over £80,000, out of a target sum of £143,300, since launching the statue campaign in 2011.

Ms Walker-Collins said that the students were “inspired” to join the campaign after learning that 90 per cent of all statues in London were of men. “That really shocked the feminist club,” she said.

Campaigners have been backed by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. In May last year, artist Maggi Hambling was chosen to design the statue.

There will be a series of talks, organised by the University of London and hosted by academics and activists, at St Pancras Old Church in Pancras Road tomorrow (Saturday) to mark the 260th anniversary of Mary Wollstonecraft’s birth. To find out more, go to www.ies.sas.ac.uk/events

Those who wish to donate to the statue campaign or learn more can do so here https://www.maryonthegreen.org 

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