Plaque to honour Mary Wollstonecraft

From behind the gates at Newington Green Primary School, council leader Catherine West joked: “I feel like I’m in a prison.” But her purpose was the celebration of freedom and women’s rights, as she unveiled a memorial plaque in honour of the late feminist icon Mary Wollestonecraft on the wall of the primary school on Tuesday.

The occasion marked the 100th International Women’s Day and was used by the Newington Green Action Group to publicise its campaign to get a statue of the trailblazer erected on the Green.

The group is asking for donations to reach its target of £260,000 by the end of 2013.

Jenny Littlewood, chair of the group, said: “This is a soft run for us to give out leaflets and raise awareness of the cause. The important date is May 20 when we will have a projection on the side of the House of Commons.”

Mary Wollstonecraft was a key figure in Newington Green’s progressive 18th century thinkers, and her seminal 1792 work A Vindication of the Rights of Women is recognized as the first full-length political theory of women and gender.

Across the Green the Unitarian church is home to a pew dedicated to the memory of Mary Wollstonecraft, pew number 19.

Roberta Wedge, a Wollstonecraft expert from the church’s congregation, said: “This is a small but very welcome recognition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s contribution. It is fantastic that the plaque is on a school as she cared very much about the education of women and girls. But she needs something more than a plaque; a statue would fulfil that need.”

Ms West said: “This is a perfect way to mark International Women’s Day in Islington. It’s thanks to people like Mary Wollstonecraft that society gradually began to change its views on women’s rights. I’m very pleased that we’ll be able to mark her impact on Islington with this lasting memorial.

“It’s really important to remember that these battles continue. Women’s services in London are currently facing enormous challenges because of the cuts to council services and I am delighted to have so many people here.”