Saturday, March 19, 2011

Parliamentary support - and another letter

Not surprisingly, Mary Wollstonecraft has many friends in Parliament. For schoolchildren, she is often grouped with the suffragettes, but of course she lived more than a century before the height of the fight for the vote. Nonetheless, as I have discovered in my quest for their signatures on the International Women's Day letter to The Guardian, many MPs and peers have a soft spot for Mary. I draw this conclusion not just from the fact that they signed, but from the enthusiastic little notes some of them attached to their assent. Clearly, she still inspires.

The rather wonderfully bolshy Jeremy Corbyn has since 1983 been the MP for Islington North, which includes Newington Green. He was at the unveiling of the council's plaque last week, and at the reception told me he would table an Early Day Motion supporting the Mary on the Green initiative. (EDMs are "formal motions submitted for debate in the House of Commons"; in fact, they rarely come to the floor, but are more a vehicle for MPs to express opinions and gather support for a cause.) He was as good as his word, tabling Motion 1553, entitled simply "Mary Wollstonecraft", that very day:
That this House welcomes the plaque that has been placed on the site where Mary Wollstonecraft wrote and established a girls school; believes her memory would be enhanced by an appropriate sculpture on Newington Green as a symbol of her great work, A Vindication of the Rights of Women; and wishes Newington Green Action Group well in this endeavour.
Twenty-five signatures so far!

One of my themes is that Mary, without question best known for her work on women's rights, had many strings to her bow. Her contributions in other fields, e.g. political philosophy and education, are significant. This was picked up in a letter of response in The Guardian, a few days after IWD. It's by Dr Graham Ullathorne, of Chesterfield, Derbyshire, who appears to write to editors at a pace matched only by Keith Flett (more on him another time):
It is a marvellous idea to honour Mary Wollstonecraft (Letters, 8 March). She also wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Men (a year before Tom Paine wrote Rights of Man), denouncing Edmund Burke for condoning slavery and hereditary privilege. All the statues of kings and queens and nothing for Mary? It shames us all.
So there is potential for widespread support from quarters as yet untapped. Let's see what Mary on the Green does with this momentum.

No comments:

Post a Comment