International Women’s Day 2011: celebrating Mary Wollstonecraft
On Tuesday 8 March Mildmay celebrated a special International Women’s Day – not only was it the centennial IWD but we were also commemorating the life and work of Mary Wollstonecraft, the pioneering feminist writer and educator who lived, worked and taught on Newington Green in the 18th century.
Her best-known work is A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, which in 1792 argued for the first time that women should have equal rights and access to education. Islington North’s MP Jeremy Corbyn, Mayor of Islington Mouna Hamitouche and many local activists and residents joined Leader of Islington Council Catherine West in unveiling a green plaque at Newington Green School – Mary Wollstonecraft’s school for girls, which she founded in the early 1780s and which is believed to have been located on the current school’s site.
Catherine and Jeremy arrived fresh from a meeting about women’s services in the borough, the continuing importance of which Catherine highlighted in her speech. After the unveiling of the plaque, the Unitarian Chapel – where Mary Wollstonecraft is thought to have worshipped - welcomed everyone for some heartfelt singing by Newington Green schoolchildren and a speech from Jeremy Corbyn encouraging the tradition of dissent that Newington Green was famous for in Wollstonecraft’s time.
Our Councillor Kate Groucutt also spoke, voicing support for the campaign to raise funds for a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft in Newington Green – a prominent, permanent reminder of her groundbreaking work to promote equality for women.
As Tory-Lib Dem cuts hit women especially hard – highlighted by Yvette Cooper in yesterday’s Guardian - it’s all the more important to remember the crucial roles women play in our own communities and in those around the world - and to continue to challenge inequality with as much conviction as Mary Wollstonecraft did more than two hundred years ago.