Thoughts On Mary Wollstonecraft’s Statue

circa 1797  english feminist writer mary wollstonecraft godwin 1759   1797, author of 'a vindication of the rights of woman' and mother of mary wollstonecraft shelley  a drawing by a s merritt after the painting by opie  photo by hulton archivegetty images

Born in 1759, Mary Wollstonecraft was an early feminist and I learned of her first as the mother of Mary Shelley, the mother of Science Fiction. While she was born to what many would call an abusive family by modern standards, what she experienced as childhood was common for women at the time. By a combination of being lucky, her own craftiness, and wielding her unhappiness through rationality, she gained an audience upon publishing her works.

Make women rational creatures, and free citizens, and they will quickly become good wives; – that is, if men do not neglect the duties of husbands and fathers.

Mary Wollstonecraft

That was her reality. She had the benefit, by all accounts, of being pretty enough and educated enough. She worked as a translator when she realized that being a housewife would drive her, and those around her, insane. And this lended her the opportunity to write her book, “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Women.”

I do not wish women to have power over men but over themselves.

Mary Wollstonecraft (arguing something that women are still arguing hundreds of years later)

Her arguments can be summarized here:

  • Men and women should be provided equal education in a coeducational environment as they are expected to marry each other and should thus be educated equally as well.
  • Men/those with power in society should be the primary leaders of a feminist liberation movement.
  • Women must choose rationality over sensibility (sensibility being defined as whims and emotions). This has been used to argue that her opinion was that sex and romance were distractions for women. This has also been subject to numerous criticisms.
  • Further addressed in “A Vindication Of The Rights Of Men” she argues in favor of constitutional monarchy and republicanism based on its distribution of power and the negative impacts that charity has. This plays into views on the church.
  • Utilitarianism makes constant appearances in her views. This may explain part of the union between herself and her husband/fellow philosopher William Godwin.

As with all historic persons, we must consider her works in the context of her time period and life experiences. While she was considered radical for her time period, she was radical for arguing that women were capable of being creatures driven by rationality and sharing responsibilities with men as equals with independent interests in self direction. Sadly, she died 10 days after giving birth to her second child, Mary Godwin (Later, Shelley), in 1797. When I heard a memorial statue to her was going to be done by an artist I really like and everyone I know hates, things got exciting.

Don’t worry, I’m okay with people hating the art I like.

Maggi Hambling had no small feat ahead of her as she designed a statue to honor Mary Wollstonecraft. Her past works include A Conversation with Oscar Wilde , Scallop (for Benjamin Britten), and so many more. She has constructed art dedicated to some of the most eccentric and extreme of individuals made famous for how their existence and identities coincidentally fell into history. I have a few favorite pieces by her including War Coffin and her paintings of the North Sea. She’s a talented artist with a very unique style.

In my opinion as a fan of her work, Hambling designs her memorial pieces with the full context of an individual’s life in mind. She works hard to include the ugliness with the beauty and as I mentioned before, Mary Wollstonecraft was gifted with a rather lovely physical form. This meant that to communicate her concept of the woman emerging into a future society as a rational being from one ruled by the senses might be a difficult design challenge when there are other creatures with penises in the room. Additionally, Hambling’s statues are interactive. Each of her sculptures is designed with considerations to their orientation in their surroundings and how each person is going to sit, touch, lay on, and feel each sculpture to interact with the memory of the person she is representing.

At first, I didn’t know what to make of her statue. It reminded me of the 35th Anniversary Edition cover of Atlas Shrugged. [I’ve been encouraged to add that this deeply bothered me because I did not at any point think I would associate feminism and anything relating to Ayn Rand at the same time. But here we are.] Admittedly, this was the first picture I saw:

Image

Then I saw more of the sculpture…

Image

But here’s the full statue….

Mary Wollstonecraft

The “naked lady” portion is maybe 1/8 of the total height and is in no way provocative. Why was I reminded of the cover of Atlas Shrugged? Probably the borderline brutalist take on the architecture of the human form that strips it of sexuality and focuses instead on its utilitarianism; this feels post-modernist. Yet we’re talking about an 18th century rationalist woman asking for the right to individual agency and purpose derived from the self in a way that is equal to men of equivalent status. Hmm… This actually looks spot on for the writings of Mary Wollstonecraft and I can’t argue with it.

As for the amorphous blob she is standing upon? Now, that’s evocative. Stare at it long enough and you start to see human shapes emerging in sensual, borderline lewd positions. It is glorious and, depending on how creative you are, rude. The rational woman is standing atop an amorphous Akira style faceless nightmare of irrational sensuality, like a freaking epiphany waiting to be seen.

As with all of Hambling’s memorials the sculpture was constructed “for” the person based on their life and life’s works. I’m not saying I love it, but I have no qualms with the sculpture. It gets the job done and creates a thoughtful conversation piece that brings Mary Wollstonecraft’s work into the twenty-first century.


Do you love it? Do you hate it? Do you find it downright offensive? All of these are okay! Feel free to leave a comment below about what you think – that space is for you and I will work to get your comment approved as quickly as possible if you have not previously commented on the website.

A Lesson Never Learned – A Poem

This poem first appeared on Curensea after being written in 2007. I have made a few minor edits.

I chose this poem based on many thoughts coming up for me over my lifetime while living in the United States. I grew up in Virginia and found it strange that I could live next to a Holocaust survivor and then move to a town with an active KKK chapter other kids at the elementary school nonchalantly talked to me about their parents being members of. My parents explained what that meant when I asked. Same with the Neo-nazi rallies in Yorktown, Virginia – you know, that place where we apparently “won the Revolutionary War”. What’s so revolutionary about it anymore now that you allow those kinds of rallies there? But Virginia did. My parents felt powerless against it because the courts ruled in their favor on the grounds of Freedom Of Speech and Freedom Of Assembly and that was used to argue for social tolerance of intolerance. Now, here we are, being asked to tolerate violence against each other as that too becomes normalized.

A statue face from St. Mary’s cemetery Missoula, MT, photo by Lo Potter

A Lesson Never Learned

It came up through the floorboards,
Zyklon B reaching forward through time
Ripping at our throats,
Forming itself around our nostrils
condensing into blue ice, after being trapped in the cold
of existence.
This depressive state of humanity
Seeming only to slumber in its death
Released the gas upon itself,
Using the world as its chamber
Many can claim their innocence
-besides-
Innocence through ignorance is the best kind
While dictators commence genocidal rampages
Using ill-earned power to rape a people
destroy their very creation of a God,
And yet, for those who are suffering:

The strongest woman I (n)ever met
sat crying at the grand opening of the Holocaust Museum
She surveyed the surrounding young people
Generations too young to remember or know what
She Survived
Walking through in awe of their own misunderstandings
She looked back without a single failed memory
Her arm exposed so everyone could see:
the vining rose tattoo that grew
out of the numbers that changed her life forever


Thank you for reading this poem today. The comments section is reserved for your thoughts. Moderating is only for preventing spam/trolls – I approve as quickly as possible and approval is only needed once to post without moderation on this website.

We Are Nothing – A Poem

I first wrote this poem in 2007 in my first semester of college. The draft was the first time someone in a collegiate academic setting told me I should consider being a professional poet. I’ve never succeeded in publishing it, but those words still encourage me. Listen to your friends – let them be the voices in your head when you desperately need them.

We Are Nothing

we are nothing, but nothing –
razor-edged souls cutting through time
with a steely gasp of twilight before our instant sunset,
packaged in a plastic microwavable container with a label stating,
“just add water”
we a single individual with many minds and parts –
societal schizophrenia on a rampage.
perhaps the voice of muscle spasm can sear through your tyranny,
as you have trapped creativity and youth in oppression,
tearing them from their families
as though they were meant to be institutionalized with
bars on the windows and
locks on the doors.
Keep faith, children!
For there is always an alternative route grasping for a mind that could fathom his existence.
Outside the window is a world darkened by a starless reality,
yet lit by polluting city lights.
Red, Green, Blue
Straining for that chance to say, “Coca-Cola” in Times Square.
But this –
this is nothing.


Please feel free to comment your personal experiences openly and freely below- I reserve the comments section for that.

A Reflection On Andrew Jackson

JacksoInaug1929.jpg
source: https://potus-geeks.livejournal.com/1055691.html

Andrew Jackson And “Decades Of Division”

Growing up in Virginia the Civil War history unit always started with Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson – the only president we don’t know the true state of birth for because he was born on the border of North and South Carolina. He is best known as the Original Jackass – the reason the Democratic party has a donkey as its mascot. He took office in 1828 “by a landslide,” reported the papers. In reality? It was the same margin as the previous election. He was popular and earned the name “The Peoples’ President.” He used campaign slogans that suggested he was fighting for the “common man” against the “corrupt aristocracy.” He was extraordinarily popular among White Men (the only people that could vote at the time). Especially southerners, frontiersmen, prospectors, and businessmen who saw his election as a financial opportunity.

His opponents were not his fans. They went so far as to call themselves the Anti-Jacksonian Party. They found many of his actions in office excessive uses of executive power, and he avoided foreign affairs to the extent that it became a point of tension and even had a sex scandal. It’s hard to forget that he is the president most responsible for American genocide against the Native American Nations across the U.S with the Indian Removal Act of 1830. There were even hints of heavy foreign influence regarding his treaties given his avoidance of foreign policy. He added supreme court justices that agreed with him to “stack the courts” to keep his interpretation of the executive powers as outlined in the constitution protected. He set off a chain of events that unfolded for the next 23 years following his departure from office.

Does this sound familiar to you at all?

Here, I’ll throw a quote from this J. Michael Martinez article from July at you:

During his initial bid for the presidency in 1824, Jackson had endured all manner of insults and humiliation. He was an uneducated bumpkin, a blasphemer, a fraudulent land speculator, and even a murderer.

Okay. Hopefully, you see where I’m going with this now.

But What About Foreign Interference!?

Hush. Do you remember nothing from history class? Or did I only learn this because I grew up in The South?

Andrew Jackson and France made a treaty in 1831. Here‘s how that played out:

In an 1831 treaty, France agreed to pay claims for Napoleonic depredations on American shipping. Nevertheless, the French Chamber of Deputies refused to appropriate the necessary funds. Jackson finally lost patience and asked Congress to authorize reprisals if the money was not paid. The French government then demanded retraction of this insult as a condition of payment. Jackson responded in effect that what he said to Congress was none of a foreign government’s business. The impasse deepened through 1835: ministers were recalled and military preparations begun. Finally, under British urgings, the French agreed to construe a conciliatory passage in a later message of Jackson’s as sufficient apology. France paid the debt and the crisis passed without repercussions.

Once the British became involved in 1835, they did not disengage. The continued conflict between Britain and France played out on American soil, as did the conflict over land claims between the United States, Spain, and Mexican independence. This foreign interference did not happen in a vacuum and absolutely influenced the war to come.

France, Spain, England and the fight for Mexican Independence were totally involved in propaganda campaigns during the 23 years leading up to the Civil War. During the Civil War, France actively sent insurgents to spread propaganda to ensure the port cities they cared about (they succeeded with Savannah!) surrendered to General Sherman.

England, on the other hand, was Pro-Confederacy for economic reasons and demonstrated this by choosing to recognize the Confederacy as an independent nation state and trade partner. All of the foreign interference was for economic reasons. The United States provided cheap goods and resources from the backs of slave labor that were integral to major international trade routes in its budding Empire.

Unfortunately, it’s hard to find hard evidence of these propaganda campaigns anymore besides what was written in letters, printed in certain newspapers, or specifically distributed in port cities. There’s some evidence to suggest Savannah’s case in General Sherman’s account of the interaction based on the individuals he spoke with and their associates. Other diaries also provide the suggestions of international presence in the decision by the city of Savannah to surrender.

“The houses all had a shut up look – but from many French, Austrian, British + some American flags were flying + from others people were putting out flags. A few doors opened as we passed + faces peered from windows.”

As an international port city (and the future Port Of Call for my family once they immigrated to the United States many many years after the Civil War) a heavy foreign influence is not terribly surprising, but it is often forgotten and left out of discussions about the Civil War.

What Does This Have To Do With 2020?

A week from today you have the option to go vote. You will vote for whomever you choose and that is your choice as an American citizen. I cannot say if the pattern above would have happened had Andrew Jackson only served one term. I can’t say that because that’s not what happened. During Andrew Jackson’s second term tragedy befell his life and, to put it mildly, he started acting more extreme than before and his political opponents vowed to behave in kind. This is when The Petticoat Affair happened. Assassination plots and attempts started cropping up. The most famous story being when he beat his assailant with his cane.

We live in “the cool zone” – we have a responsibility to decide how cool we’re going to allow it to get.


Thank you for reading this today! Please remember to go out and vote a week from today if you haven’t already participated in early voting or you haven’t dropped your mail-in ballot off to be mailed. Feel free to let me know if I need to add any additional sources or make any corrections. I try my best to fact-check, but no one is perfect.