Tag Archives: memorial

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:

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Then I saw more of the sculpture…

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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.

Pet Obituary: Freckles

In 2014, I wrote my first pet obituary for our beloved dog, Freckles. She impacted me as much as many of my other human friends and family have and I knew her longer than some of my other friends that had and have since passed. I wrote this obituary as a gift for my family and through this learned that I love writing pieces that capture the beauty a life can hold and share with the world.

Because this piece is so important to me, I requested that my family allow me to post it here (with some minor editing and personal information removed).

Dear Friends and Family,

On the 29th of August, 2014, our family lost their furry daughter, Freckles. She lived a long life of almost 20 years filled with love, adventure, excitement, mischief, and the never-ending need to prove her intelligence to those bipedal creatures around her. Shortly after Joe arrived with another moving truck, Freckles suffered from a stroke, causing her to lose the majority of control over her hind legs and develop severe reoccurring seizures. Our family would like to extend our deepest gratitude to a new family friend and neighbor for finding a veterinarian that would take us on short notice and relieve Freckles of her pain and suffering in the kindest, gentlest, and fastest manner possible while Glenda and Lo held her, kissed her, petted her, and spoke very softly to her until she passed peacefully.

Freckles joined our family when she was 8 weeks old, rejected by her mother, abused, neglected, and scared of the world. Joe and Jennifer went to Winchester, Virginia to pick up her from the Virginia Border Collie Rescue League during January 1996. Since then our family was blessed with the most amazing friendship and companionship.

When this small 8-week old puppy arrived in our hearts and home in Annandale, Virginia, Rebecca convinced the family to name her Freckles because of the markings all over her legs. Unlike most dogs, responding better to distinct “-ee” or other long vowel ending names, Freckles immediately responded and took on her identity. Perhaps this was the first sign that we had gotten ourselves into trouble with adopting a precocious and intelligent dog gifted with unique cognizance and an understanding of the English language.

The powers that be gifted Freckles with a strong herding instinct. She herded everything. On at least one occasion our family was blessed by watching a small puppy corral a group of slugs on a back patio and herd them. Chickens too could not escape her herding instinct. Our former chicken, Chica, constantly engaged in a battle of tolerance and wits with Freckles as she would crouch in the grass and sneak up on Chica to begin herding her again after Chica’s retaliations against her. Other animals that did not escape her herding instincts included the Canadian Geese at the local community college campus, rabbits, many many insects, and anything else she could herd, sometimes including house guests.

In addition to her herding instinct, Freckles was also gentle and loving. As an example, one night Freckles collected two small baby mice and very gently carried both in her mouth over to where Joe slept and deposited the two babies on his chest. She succeeded in waking Joe and insisting on him caring for them as she nudged them to make sure they were still alive.

As a young dog, she accompanied our family on trips to Florida, New England, and Canada. One of her favorite past times were car rides with Joe and the family. A particular memory from these travels includes a hotel in Montreal, Quebec. After a long day of driving, Joe attempted to piece together bits of French and English in order to communicate with the hotel staff tried to get approval for Freckles to stay in the room with our family. The hotel concierge eventually simply asked “No yap yap?” in broken English, and Joe grateful for the language breakthrough responded “No. No yap yap.”

When Joe’s father passed away, she looked for him everywhere, following his scent around the house in Falls Church, Virginia, mourning his death and crying with Joe. She comforted Joe in silence as he dealt with the loss his best friend, father, and role model in life. Freckles also aided the rest of our family during this hard time, comforting each member individually in very personalized ways, and communicating with us through her imitation of the human language. She kept our entire family together and sane during the greatest loss we had suffered at that point in our lives.

Freckles’ exceedingly brilliant intelligence included many talents, such as problem-solving, language comprehension, obedience, her ability to act as an obedience teacher, and playfulness. Shortly after Freckle’s first growth spurt, she began opening the door to let herself outside, as just one example of her problem-solving abilities. Additionally, her talents in the English language are not to be ignored as part of her remembrance. On more than one occasion Freckles answered yes or no questions by nodding or shaking her head. She also regularly imitated the English language when greeting Joe upon his arrival home from work each day. There is no question that Freckles understood almost everything anyone said within her hearing range. Shortly after obedience training, it became clear that Freckles’ obeyed commands only on her own terms, yet she passed her obedience and expectations of obedience on to other family dogs shortly after their arrival in the family.

Her joy and vivacity in play with Joe were incomparable. Three of her favorite games included Tug-Of-War, the Black Drain Pipe, and catching the hand monster. Freckles aged with grace, dignity, and pride for herself and her family.

Our Family was always welcomed home, snuggled, and sought after, sometimes out of herding instinct, but mostly out of love. Our family human children: Jennifer, Rebecca, Lo, and Austin walked protected by her through the yard, and guarded every moment we walked through the streets of the neighborhood. She watched over the safety of all of Joe and Glenda’s children and the friends of their children of which she approved, both furry and bipedal.

Freckles will be cremated and her ashes placed in an urn made of pink granite to match that of our family memorial. At a future date, our family will take Freckles’s remains on a final trip to Savannah, Georgia to visit the family memorial in a small private ceremony.

Our sincerest thanks to all of our friends and family during this difficult time.


Thank you for reading Freckles’s obituary/memorial today. The comments section is reserved for readers to share their own personal experiences and thoughts around pet obituaries. Do you agree with having them written? Disagree with them? Comments are moderated only to prevent spam and middle school style indecency. Once you have one approved comment on the website you won’t have to wait for comment moderation. I try to get comments approved as quickly as possible.

In Memoriam: For Lillian On Her Birthday (July 9, 1925 – December 31, 2016)

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Prayer card from Lillian’s memorial service

This year I had planned to be in Savannah, Georgia at Bonaventure Cemetery spending today with you and Grandpa, preferably with my parents or one of my siblings.

You convinced me to keep writing when I wanted to give up.

You told me I could succeed.

You would have been 95 today. We celebrated our birthdays together: yours today and mine tomorrow.

At the time I thought it was weird that I didn’t have normal birthday parties. Instead, we had a big family dinner together on July 9th and then we’d do something together on July 10th. Sometimes whatever we did involved whatever children my family could scrounge together.

It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized this was a birthday party, just not the kind of birthday party most American kids have.

What I hadn’t realized was that every year you celebrated me being your birthday gift.

I was your surprise baby. Your impossible baby.


Impossible Baby

The story goes Mama was sick
Mama didn’t know I wasn’t the flu
A five month flu
Impossible flu

Two kids to chase
Two kids to follow

Too Sick, Too Tired
Mama didn’t know I wasn’t the flu

Doctor came in the room
Test Results Read
“Impossible”
She said

Ultrasound
Boy’s Name
Father and Grandfather
Dreams Come True
Finally
The fourth with their name

Grandmother’s Birthday
Too Early
Don’t Be Born
Baby — But
Mama can’t stop me
Born Just After Midnight
July Tenth
Belated Birthday Gift

But
That’s Not A Boy

No One Agrees:
Laraleigh – Laura
No,
Lo


Being born premature in 1989, my mother did not want to take baby pictures of me in an incubator where she could not hold me. She did not want to have pictures reminding her of what I looked like hooked up to a heart monitor and a ventilator with various IV bags flowing into me. She did not want to remember the hours and hours where she wandered around a hospital screaming because the nurses lost track of where they put me and forgot to tell her anything about my condition.

Seriously, you kids born premature after 1990 had way higher survival rates. One of the reasons my mom didn’t take baby pictures was because she was advised not to in case I didn’t live. That’s the sort of stuff women were told would be psychologically better for them in the 1980s. I swear my mother is one of the strongest women on this planet.

Because of this, I didn’t see a baby picture of me until I was 30 years old – this past February/March while visiting my parents. In the picture, I am almost 6 months old and my grandparents are holding me after my christening service at St. Matthews Church.

Christening

I didn’t see the photograph
Until age 30
Grandmother and Grandfather hold me
[The red brick of St. Matthew’s Church]
Smiling-
Laughing so hard
Their faces blur

The only baby picture

Mama didn’t want to remember:
Wires, tubes, monitors, screens

I don’t remember them either.


In my early twenties, I asked my grandmother for a picture of her and my grandfather for my birthday. I’m terrible at asking for anything, especially if it is something the logical part of my brain has deemed superfluous. What I didn’t expect was this.

It’s a picture of my grandmother and grandfather at Armstrong College in Savannah, Georgia. At the time, my grandfather, having just returned from World War II, was finishing up a Bachelors of Science in Meteorology. My grandmother taught chemistry. They fell in love with teaching, scientific progress, and each other.

They were the types of people that had trouble sitting still.

My grandmother was academically fascinated by her heritage. She honored her connection to the Douglas clan, but I would not call her proud. Often, she focused more on the deep connection it provided her to faith. Her expressions of spirituality changed so much even over the 27 and half years I knew her that it’s hard to say what she believed. What I can say is that she believed in showing endless love, patience, and understanding. We selected her favorite prayers and passages to include on the prayer cards.

Prayer cards from the memorial service for Lillian

What I want every person reading this to know is that though I have only spoken of a few moments, 91.5 years is a long time on this planet. Lillian danced through those years with a love of music, chemistry, objectivity, compassion, education, and love.

The last two gifts she gave me were her engagement ring and her last words.

My grandmother wanted to experience everything there was to experience on this planet. She liked to say, “Heaven Is Here On Earth.” She did not live an easy life – in fact, quite the opposite. Her life was by far full of emotional hardship.


The Last Memory

Restless loblolly pines
We sit
Dry docked green aluminum jon boat
He laughs with goofy faces
Old spice arms envelope me
Binocular eyes

“That’s the Hale Bopp Comet”
His voice is shimmering moonlight on bay water
His presence is my father’s smile

He still wears that 1970s brown and tan puffer jacket
A flare orange dog whistle on a braided leather cord
I taste fried fish tails
Bay water drains off the hull

My fathers hold me together
The child meant to be the fourth with their names
For that moment I belong

Together they point to stardust
Teach me constellations
How to find my way home
If I am ever lost at sea


My grandfather died in 1997 in the doctor’s office while getting dressed after a physical. He wasn’t feeling well and in between classes he managed to get seen. He didn’t make it to his afternoon lecture. In October, he would have been 100 years old.

She never remarried, but she was not broken. She mourned the loss of her best friend and celebrated his memory every chance she got. My grandfather loved fill-in-the-blank style Hallmark cards and writing her love poems. What I didn’t realize until I was a teenager was that she kept all of them and read his words every time she missed him.

Now, I find myself doing the same thing, even with her final words. My birthday buddy can never be replaced. I will celebrate her 150th birthday in 2075 just as I celebrate her 95th.

Terminal Lucidity

They said she’d never play piano again
Hematoma
Right side
CAT scan looks bad

We came to visit at the wrong moment
Right moment
The nurses couldn’t find the cell phone number
They wouldn’t let us in the room

We’d spoken to her that morning
We said we’d see her soon

You were out on the boat
Knee high in male bonding
Falling in love the only way
Our family knows how

We finally got you on the phone
But you never hung up

At 91 and a half
You and I argued
You insisted she was clear

We moved her to hospice
We prayed she’d tell us that we were wrong

Later that night
I sat alone with my other mother
She squeezed my hand
“I’m not ready”

She never spoke again.


As I conclude this memorial, I thank you for taking the time to be here with me. I recognize that it is not easy to be with someone in mourning. I recognize that it is increasingly unusual in America for people to grow up in a multi-generational child rearing situations where they and their siblings form these close bonds. Because of this, real family, the family that sticks by you and unconditionally loves you, will be my first priority in life for as long as I live. That’s what we were taught by our grandparents and our parents. I hope that this is a legacy my siblings and I can carry on.

With that, I close this with love to all members of my family.

“A good name is to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold” – Family Motto / Proverbs 22:1