I started this blog just over six months ago. My first post read, in its entirety:
On this day 213 years ago, Mary Wollstonecraft died. With this blog, she will live again.There was a lull over the winter, but the spring has given me, and this blog, new energy. I have plans, and I'll share some of them with you now.
What it's all for
Women's History Month is an annual festival of forgotten heroines, and serves as a focus for numerous worthwhile educational endeavours. I'm not going to be curmudgeonly about it; I enjoy some of the events put on in its name. But Mary is not just for feminists, a theme that I will keep coming back to. Her political philosophy, working out core principles of human rights and republicanism, is much more wide-ranging. Her travelogue of sensibility pre-dates the Romantics. Her pedagogy was innovative for its day. These contributions have been overlooked or dismissed, perhaps because of her sex, but gradually they are gaining wider critical attention.
I started this blog primarily as a way of creating a meeting place for Mary enthusiasts -- and Wollstonecraft scholars. It is, in effect, testing the waters for a Mary Fan Club or Wollstonecraft Society. Isn't it surprising that neither yet exists? As I said in a recent comment:
If this blog succeeds in bringing together Mary fans, I am delighted. If this blog succeeds in bringing together paid Mary experts who did not previously know of each other's existence, I am vindicated.
- teaching myself blogging, in terms both of content and of form. This is my first serious attempt at a blog for public eyes. I need to keep a reasonable rhythm; I know I can't sustain the previous few weeks of almost daily updates (but so much has been going on!). I want to use this project as a vehicle to boost my technical skills, like capturing the right sort of screenshot, editing and uploading video and audio, catching comment spam, embedding dynamic content I've gathered, analysing the statistics, and improving our Google rankings (the dark arts of SEO, but with the added sunshine of rationalist honesty).
- supporting projects, most notably Mary on the Green, the campaign I'm involved with to get her a statue, but also other ventures as I come across them.
- reaching out, to invite people to join in. From individual blogs, from blog carnivals, from projects such as The Year of Feminist Classics, from Twitter, from Facebook, from YouTube, from official websites of organisations GLAM or otherwise, from academe, from publishing, from education, from politics ...
- establishing and developing a central repository of material for easy re-use: a list of quotes by and about her, a calendar of dates, a gallery of images, a map, etc.
- Wednesday Walks: already published is Somers Town, and written and queued up are St Pancras, Southwark, Spitalfields; in draft form is Paris; and later possibilities are Bloomsbury, Barking, Beverley, even unalliterative Hoxton.
- Mary & Me, personal essays describing how she came into our personal and professional lives. So far we've had a French philosopher and a Japanese historian; next Monday, though I'm not into huge self-revelation, I will bow to the will of the clamouring throng and tell them a little of how I came to be involved. (Psst! Throng! Clamour a bit louder, would you?) There's also an American novelist and poet who has promised her story. After that, we'll see.
- I want to showcase creative work, visual and literary, humourous and serious. So far we've had the gentle pleasure of sketches of Newington Green; upcoming, a Mary tattoo, oh yes.
- There will be regular dollops of research, things I (and others) have found out that are not in the official biographies. A subset of this is Mary's legacy, those people who read her work and found it a turning point, but again, who are not listed as her intellectual heirs. I have quite a few names already.
- I want to catalogue and review what is already online, and draw the good sites together, whether they be a personal essay or something more elaborate. There are undiscovered gems on Google Books, for instance. Detailing online treasure troves could be an infinite task, but it ties in well to the outreach. Book reviews could come in here too.
- It would be a good idea to build in a series of quotes from her, and my reflections, leading I hope to analysis and conversation in the comments.
- I have a series of essays I want to write, and a more creative project too, though I am hesitant to say more.
- I want to highlight projects, mine and others', as small as my Twitter biography in #38 days (today, a quarter of the way towards its destination), as big as the launch of Mary on the Green, the campaign to get her a statue. I particularly want to draw readers' attention to time-limited events such as performances and exhibitions, e.g. Shelley's Ghost.
Where we are now with the blogstuff
I'm sure this will seem piddling to anyone running a proper blog, but in the last month there have been 775 page views, which astonished me. How did they find it?! Google tells me they've come from all over, not surprisingly predominantly from the UK and the US and Canada, but from many other places, not just Turkey and Japan as one might expect, but from Hungary (!), Russia, France, Germany, the Netherlands (and last year, Morocco). Firefox pips Internet Explorer, by the way, and yes, I did turn on the "Don't track your own pageviews" option. This is the 18th post of March; collectively they have attracted 24 comments from eight people, several of whom I would never have met, online or off, but for this blog. And this is only three weeks in, and without any publicity or outreach.
So, dear double-dozen readers, can you advise me on how to tidy up the blog before I haul it in front of the world? Does any aspect of it strike you as an infelicity of design? How does it look on your browser? Is there any content missing, something obvious that really should be there? Is there anything that detracts from your enjoyment and understanding of what this is all about, namely Mary Wollstonecraft in her day and in ours? The success of this blog depends on you!