Wednesday, March 6, 2013

A round-up for International Women's Day

Time for a round-up of International Women's Day events that feature Mary Wollstonecraft.

There's "The Two Marys: A Conversation Piece", created by American writer Judith Chernaik, founder of Poems on the Underground. This one-off performance is sponsored by Camden Council, representing the place that embraced the end of the mother's life and the beginning of the daughter's. In a neighbouring borough there is a multifaceted celebration with a lot of music and an hour on Mary Wollstonecraft, by historian Clare Midgley, performance academic Anna Birch, and myself, reprising my IGNITE story-telling. That's organised by the Islington Unitarians in their post-Blitz hidden edifice on Upper Street. Their sister congregation in Newington Green, the church that nurtured Mary as a young schoolteacher, will be opened for the beginning of the Feminist (Or Is It?) walk by Hackney Tours. Simon Coles has chosen to offer the event as a fundraiser for Mary on the Green, the campaign for a statue, as has Hilary King, who is running an Alexander Technique taster session that afternoon. Stand tall, Mary Wollstonecraft fans!

Most of these are listed on, the corporate-sponsored "global hub for sharing International Women's Day news, events and resources". (Banner ad: "Discover BP's feminine side".) They provided the logo above, and straplines such as "The advancement of women is of prime importance to the economy, business and society. The support of corporate organisations supporting women is critical." I would argue that the support of copy editors is also critical, but I digress....

There are well over 1000 events on the IWD database, with more still being added; hundreds are happening in Britain. The search facility seems to be broken, so I can't see if any others list Mary Wollstonecraft as an inspiration, but one that intrigues me is a walking tour of "sculptures of remarkable women ... from Louisa Blake to Emmeline Pankhurst", led by the UNWomen UK London Committee:
We are the local representative, voice and champion for UN Women (formed in January 2011 from the amalgamation of UNIFEM and three other UN gender bodies) and support the work of UN Women in its mission for gender equality and the empowerment of women.
If only the tour could end up at a commemoration of England's first feminist!

Perhaps the most significant event will be the launch of Fifty Shades of Feminism, a compilation brought together by Lisa Appignanesi, Rachel Holmes and Susie Orbach. It features a chapter entitled "There's Something About Mary" by none other than Bee Rowlatt, no stranger to this blog. The launch is part of the three-day extravaganza on the Southbank, WOW, the Women of the World festival. Sometimes there are good reasons to love London.

Last year for International Women's Day I wrote on the importance of education and on maternal mortality, in the eighteenth century and now, here in the Wealthy West but also in the Wider World. The year before that, on the 100th anniversary of IWD, Mary Wollstonecraft got yet another non-blue plaque, situated most fittingly on a school. Islington Council was behind that nod of appreciation.

If you need more inspiration, have a look at these wonderful posters for IWD 2013.

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