Other publicity is bubbling along nicely. Student radio wanted an interview the same day as the local paper; the promised .wav might yet show up. I'll be addressing the new-look and zeitgeisty Stoke Newington Women's Institute this evening, rattling the tin. Three questions to get out of the way first.
Why Mary Wollstonecraft? I hope readers of this blog can provide answers aplenty: England's first feminist (well, close enough) - and so much else besides - lacks any substantial memorial anywhere in the world.
|John Betjeman, I love you .|
Wikimedia Commons, ILYT.
And why Newington Green? True, there are many other locations associated with Mary, including quite a few in central London (her birthplace in Spitalfields, her garret on the South Bank, her publisher at St Paul's, her chipped teacup lodgings in Bloomsbury, her happy last months in Somers Town and St Pancras). Newington Green was where she lived as a young woman, with her beloved. She arrived an unknown and unpublished schoolteacher; she left a couple of years later, having had her world enlarged by hanging out with well-read, high-minded, hard-working neighbours. Most of them were Rational Dissenters, associated with the little chapel of which Richard Price was the minister. That great and gentle man was kind and generous to her, as was Mrs Burgh, widow of an educationalist, and truly a fairy godmother to Mary. The chapel still says Newington Green Unitarian Church, and is still radical - in fact, it has just rehung on the outside railings the banner that says Birthplace of Feminism (in Mary's honour, and in place of the previous one, 300 Years of Dissent). So Newington Green has a strong claim to Mary.
I have written before of the formidable team of the Newington Green Action Group, who brought the green itself back to life within the last decade, and who now wish for a cherry atop their cake. NGAG has registered charity status, elected officers, a bank account, a track record, contacts across the borough, kosher paperwork, the whole lot. Mary on the Green had a soft launch of sorts on International Women's Day, with the unveiling of the council's un-blue plaque to Mary, high up on Newington Green Primary School, followed by a children's choir in the church, from that school. We got our letter in the Guardian, signed by all those peers and MPs. (Stop! I'm having flashbacks of those hundreds and hundreds of hideous handmade emails. I've been trying to block it out. More absinthe, please) The Mary on the Green website went live: cannily and simply maryonthegreen.org. I appeared on Woman's Hour and Jenni Murray called me "besotted". That was half a year ago.