Sunday, March 13, 2011

Plaque is well and truly unveiled

The Islington Tribune came through with a good article here entitled "Mary Wollstonecraft gets a green plaque at Newington Green Primary... will statue be next?" The plaque was commissioned by Islington Council, whose page on it is here.

A plaque is all very well and good, but there must be a reason why I Freudianly slip-type it as "plague" instead. A plaque is a sort of holding point. Wollstonecraft deserves a proper statue, hence the committee to make it happen, Mary on the Green. Beyond that, what about an institution in her name -- a girls' school in Afghanistan, a women's leadership institute, a museum, possibly in Richard Price's house on Newington Green. (There is an inspiring example of a cluster of modern initiatives around an early feminist: in Rochester, New York, where Susan B. Anthony lived and worked. More on them another time.) And beyond a statue and institution: a full-monty biopic -- Mary, the Movie.

There are several plaques to Mary in London. None are Blue Plaques; English Heritage is very strict about their criteria, and there are no buildings still standing in which Mary lived or worked. In 2004, biographer Claire Tomalin unveiled a plaque in Southwark near Blackfriars Bridge (warning: it appears blue to the casual viewer, but this may be an illusion). Why there? Because from 1787 Mary lived on George Street (now Dolben Street), and the plaque is on number 45, "a 20th-century building but Thompson House next door would have been known" to her. While there, she wrote Original Stories, with William Blake as its illustrator. Shelley lived nearby in Nelson Square some years later, where he has his own plaque. 

There is a plaque on the site of the Polygon in Camden, her final home, and thus the birthplace of Mary Shelley. There are those odd gates at Spitalfields. There is the Mary Wollstonecraft Lecture Theatre at Bournemouth University and the Mary Wollstonecraft Memorial Lecture at the University of Hull. Any more examples would be gratefully received, but I'm not expecting a flood.  

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