Street art: Classy ‘graffiti’ mystery at New Unity Unitarian Church in London – 100313 2020z

Street art graffiti depicting Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of feminism, had mysteriously ‘manifested’ on the wall of @newunity, in Newington Green, where she worshipped in the 18th Century.

Mary Wollstonecraft street art graffiti New Unity Unitarian Church in Newington Green, London. (Photo: Penny Walker)

Humanist Unitarian minister, Andy Pakula, notes that the picture is signed by “Stewy,” he published this picture on twitter.

A closer look at Stewy street art at New Unity Unitarian Church in London (Photo: Andy Pakula)

Stewy is a renowned anonymous stencil graffiti artist based in London.

Kent News managed to get hold of the elusive man back in September 2012.

He said: “Due to Banksy’s popularity, more and more artists have been inspired to create their own work. For most people, to go out and create art is a great thing.

No one is telling them to do it . It takes effort and skill. But I feel an irony when large companies and advertisers use graffiti to promote products, while grassroots artists get arrested for creating art, especially when they’re trying to convey political injustice.

The public perception of street art or graffiti is changing and needs to change more.

However, if it takes advertising to create the image that graffiti is cool and not purely antisocial, perhaps its Ok.”

I generally choose people I like and admire. People who are different. They always appear where they lived, worked or died. I call it psycho geography. It’s educational, the people in the context of the environment combine geography, history and art.

“Ultimately, the image commemorates the person ‘like ghosts across the street’. It’s not about me. The work highlights people or eccentrics who have or had made a difference, changed how we approach art, music or writing, pushing the boundaries in Britain and shaking things up a little.

A common thread I noticed with the people is they are all very British underdogs, eccentrics, anarchists,obscure.

I seem to choose the least expected and least commercial people other street artists would not normally consider.” (Quotes from Kent News)

So who was

Mary Wollstonecraft?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Left-looking half-length portrait of a possibly pregnant woman in a white dress

Mary Wollstonecraft by John Opie (c. 1797)

Part of a series on
Feminist philosophy
Mary Wollstonecraft
Major works
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
The Subjection of Women

The Second Sex

Notable theorists
Mary Wollstonecraft· John Stuart Mill
Simone de Beauvoir·
Important concepts
Feminism· Equality· Gender

Mary Wollstonecraft (pron.: /ˈwʊlstən.krɑːft/; 27 April 1759 – 10 September 1797) was an eighteenth-century British writer, philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights. During her brief career, she wrote novels, treatises, a travel narrative, a history of the French Revolution, a conduct book, and a children’s book. Wollstonecraft is best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), in which she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men, but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason.

Until the late 20th century, Wollstonecraft’s life, which encompassed several unconventional personal relationships, received more attention than her writing. After two ill-fated affairs, with Henry Fuseli and Gilbert Imlay (by whom she had a daughter, Fanny Imlay), Wollstonecraft married the philosopher William Godwin, one of the forefathers of the anarchist movement. Wollstonecraft died at the age of thirty-eight, ten days after giving birth to her second daughter, leaving behind several unfinished manuscripts. Her daughter Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, later Mary Shelley, the author of Frankenstein, would become an accomplished writer herself.

After Wollstonecraft’s death, her widower published a Memoir (1798) of her life, revealing her unorthodox lifestyle, which inadvertently destroyed her reputation for almost a century. However, with the emergence of the feminist movement at the turn of the twentieth century, Wollstonecraft’s advocacy of women’s equality and critiques of conventional femininity became increasingly important. Today Wollstonecraft is regarded as one of the founding feminist philosophers, and feminists often cite both her life and work as important influences.

Contents

Biography

Early life

Wollstonecraft was born on 27 April 1759 in Spitalfields, London. She was the second of the seven children of Edward John Wollstonecraft and Elizabeth Dixon.[1] Although her family had a comfortable income when she was a child, her father gradually squandered it on speculative projects. Consequently, the family became financially unstable and they were frequently forced to move during Wollstonecraft’s youth.[2] The family’s financial situation eventually became so dire that Wollstonecraft’s father compelled her to turn over money that she would have inherited at her maturity. Moreover, he was apparently a violent man who would beat his wife in drunken rages. As a teenager, Wollstonecraft used to lie outside the door of her mother’s bedroom to protect her.[3] Wollstonecraft played a similar maternal role for her sisters, Everina and Eliza, throughout her life. For example, in a defining moment in 1784, she convinced Eliza, who was suffering from what was probably postpartum depression, to leave her husband and infant; Wollstonecraft made all of the arrangements for Eliza to flee, demonstrating her willingness to challenge social norms. The human costs, however, were severe: her sister suffered social condemnation and, because she could not remarry, was doomed to a life of poverty and hard work.[4]

Two friendships shaped Wollstonecraft’s early life. The first was with Jane Arden in Beverley. The two frequently read books together and attended lectures presented by Arden’s father, a self-styled philosopher and scientist. Wollstonecraft revelled in the intellectual atmosphere of the Arden household and valued her friendship with Arden greatly, sometimes to the point of being emotionally possessive. Wollstonecraft wrote to her: “I have formed romantic notions of friendship… I am a little singular in my thoughts of love and friendship; I must have the first place or none.”[5] In some of Wollstonecraft’s letters to Arden, she reveals the volatile and depressive emotions that would haunt her throughout her life.[6]

The second and more important friendship was with Fanny Blood, introduced to Wollstonecraft by the Clares, a couple in Hoxton who became parental figures to her; Wollstonecraft credited Blood with opening her mind.[7] Unhappy with her home life, Wollstonecraft struck out on her own in 1778 and accepted a job as a lady’s companion to Sarah Dawson, a widow living in Bath. However, Wollstonecraft had trouble getting along with the irascible woman (an experience she drew on when describing the drawbacks of such a position in Thoughts on the Education of Daughters, 1787). In 1780 she returned home, called back to care for her dying mother.[8] Rather than return to Dawson’s employ after the death of her mother, Wollstonecraft moved in with the Bloods. She realized during the two years she spent with the family that she had idealized Blood, who was more invested in traditional feminine values than was Wollstonecraft. But Wollstonecraft remained dedicated to her and her family throughout her life (she frequently gave pecuniary assistance to Blood’s brother, for example).[9]

Wollstonecraft had envisioned living in a female utopia with Blood; they made plans to rent rooms together and support each other emotionally and financially, but this dream collapsed under economic realities. In order to make a living, Wollstonecraft, her sisters, and Blood set up a school together in Newington Green, a Dissenting community. Blood soon became engaged and after their marriage her husband, Hugh Skeys, took her to Europe to improve her health, which had always been precarious.[10] Despite the change of surroundings Blood’s health further deteriorated when she became pregnant, and in 1785 Wollstonecraft left the school and followed Blood to nurse her, but to no avail.[11] Moreover, her abandonment of the school led to its failure.[12] Blood’s death devastated Wollstonecraft and was part of the inspiration for her first novel, Mary: A Fiction (1788).[13]

“The first of a new genus”

Engraving showing a female teacher holding her arms up in the shape of a cross. There is one female child on each side of her, both gazing up at her.

Frontispiece to the 1791 edition of Original Stories from Real Life engraved by William Blake

Mary Wollstonecraft in 1790-1, by John Opie.

After Blood’s death, Wollstonecraft’s friends helped her obtain a position as governess to the daughters of the Anglo-Irish Kingsborough family in Ireland. Although she could not get along with Lady Kingsborough,[14] the children found her an inspiring instructor; Margaret King would later say she “had freed her mind from all superstitions”.[15] Some of Wollstonecraft’s experiences during this year would make their way into her only children’s book, Original Stories from Real Life (1788).[16]

Frustrated by the limited career options open to respectable yet poor women—an impediment which Wollstonecraft eloquently describes in the chapter of Thoughts on the Education of Daughters entitled “Unfortunate Situation of Females, Fashionably Educated, and Left Without a Fortune”—she decided, after only a year as a governess, to embark upon a career as an author. This was a radical choice, since, at the time, few women could support themselves by writing. As she wrote to her sister Everina in 1787, she was trying to become “the first of a new genus”.[17] She moved to London and, assisted by the liberal publisher Joseph Johnson, found a place to live and work to support herself.[18] She learned French and German and translated texts,[19] most notably Of the Importance of Religious Opinions by Jacques Necker and Elements of Morality, for the Use of Children by Christian Gotthilf Salzmann. She also wrote reviews, primarily of novels, for Johnson’s periodical, the Analytical Review. Wollstonecraft’s intellectual universe expanded during this time, not only from the reading that she did for her reviews but also from the company she kept: she attended Johnson’s famous dinners and met such luminaries as the radical pamphleteer Thomas Paine and the philosopher William Godwin. The first time Godwin and Wollstonecraft met, they were both disappointed in each other. Godwin had come to hear Paine, but Wollstonecraft assailed him all night long, disagreeing with him on nearly every subject. Johnson himself, however, became much more than a friend; she described him in her letters as a father and a brother.[20]

While in London, Wollstonecraft pursued a relationship with the artist Henry Fuseli, even though he was already married. She was, she wrote, enraptured by his genius, “the grandeur of his soul, that quickness of comprehension, and lovely sympathy”.[21] She proposed a platonic living arrangement with Fuseli and his wife, but Fuseli’s wife was appalled, and he broke off the relationship with Wollstonecraft.[22] After Fuseli’s rejection, Wollstonecraft decided to travel to France to escape the humiliation of the incident, and to participate in the revolutionary events that she had just celebrated in her recent Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790). She had written the Rights of Men in response to Edmund Burke’s conservative critique of the French Revolution in Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790) and it made her famous overnight. She was compared with such leading lights as the theologian and controversialist Joseph Priestley and Paine, whose Rights of Man (1791) would prove to be the most popular of the responses to Burke. She pursued the ideas she had outlined in Rights of Men in A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792), her most famous and influential work.[23]

France and Gilbert Imlay

Smoke is billowing throughout the top two-thirds of the picture, dead guards are scattered in the foreground, and a battle, with hand-to-hand combat and one horse is taking place in the bottom right.

10 August attack on the Tuileries Palace; French revolutionary violence spreads

Wollstonecraft left for Paris in December 1792 and arrived about a month before Louis XVI was guillotined. France was in turmoil. She sought out other British visitors such as Helen Maria Williams and joined the circle of expatriates then in the city.[24] Having just written the Rights of Woman, Wollstonecraft was determined to put her ideas to the test, and in the stimulating intellectual atmosphere of the French revolution she attempted her most experimental romantic attachment yet: she met and fell passionately in love with Gilbert Imlay, an American adventurer. Whether or not she was interested in marriage, he was not, and she appears to have fallen in love with an idealized portrait of the man. While Wollstonecraft had rejected the sexual component of relationships in the Rights of Woman, Imlay awakened her passions and her interest in sex.[25] She soon became pregnant, and on 14 May 1794 she gave birth to her first child, Fanny, naming her after perhaps her closest friend.[26] Wollstonecraft was overjoyed; she wrote to a friend: “My little Girl begins to suck so MANFULLY that her father reckons saucily on her writing the second part of the R[igh]ts of Woman” (emphasis hers).[27] She continued to write avidly, despite not only her pregnancy and the burdens of being a new mother alone in a foreign country, but also the growing tumult of the French Revolution. While at Le Havre in northern France, she wrote a history of the early revolution, An Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution, which was published in London in December 1794.[28]

As the political situation worsened, Britain declared war on France, placing all British subjects in France in considerable danger. To protect Wollstonecraft, Imlay registered her as his wife in 1793, even though they were not married.[29] Some of her friends were not so lucky; many, like Thomas Paine, were arrested, and some were even guillotined. (Wollstonecraft’s sisters believed she had been imprisoned.) After she left France, she continued to refer to herself as “Mrs Imlay”, even to her sisters, in order to bestow legitimacy upon her child.[30]

Imlay, unhappy with the domestic-minded and maternal Wollstonecraft, eventually left her. He promised that he would return to Le Havre where she went to give birth to her child, but his delays in writing to her and his long absences convinced Wollstonecraft that he had found another woman. Her letters to him are full of needy expostulations, explained by most critics as the expressions of a deeply depressed woman but by some as a result of her circumstances—alone with an infant in the middle of a revolution.[31]

England and William Godwin

Seeking Imlay, Wollstonecraft returned to London in April 1795, but he rejected her. In May 1795 she attempted to commit suicide, probably with laudanum, but Imlay saved her life (although it is unclear how).[32] In a last attempt to win back Imlay, she embarked upon some business negotiations for him in Scandinavia, trying to recoup some of his losses. Wollstonecraft undertook this hazardous trip with only her young daughter and a maid. She recounted her travels and thoughts in letters to Imlay, many of which were eventually published as Letters Written During a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark in 1796.[33] When she returned to England and came to the full realisation that her relationship with Imlay was over, she attempted suicide for the second time, leaving a note for Imlay:

Let my wrongs sleep with me! Soon, very soon, I shall be at peace. When you receive this, my burning head will be cold… I shall plunge into the Thames where there is least chance of my being snatched from the death I seek. God bless you! May you never know by experience what you have made me endure. Should your sensibility ever awake, remorse will find its way to your heart; and, in the midst of business and sensual pleasure, I shall appear before you, the victim of your deviation from rectitude.[34]

She then went out on a rainy night and “to make her clothes heavy with water, she walked up and down about half an hour” before jumping into the River Thames, but a stranger saw her jump and rescued her.[35] Wollstonecraft considered her suicide attempt deeply rational, writing after her rescue, “I have only to lament, that, when the bitterness of death was past, I was inhumanly brought back to life and misery. But a fixed determination is not to be baffled by disappointment; nor will I allow that to be a frantic attempt, which was one of the calmest acts of reason. In this respect, I am only accountable to myself. Did I care for what is termed reputation, it is by other circumstances that I should be dishonoured.”[36]

Gradually, Wollstonecraft returned to her literary life, becoming involved with Joseph Johnson’s circle again, in particular with Mary Hays, Elizabeth Inchbald, and Sarah Siddons through William Godwin. Godwin and Wollstonecraft’s unique courtship began slowly, but it eventually became a passionate love affair.[37] Godwin had read her Letters Written in Sweden, Norway, and Denmark and later wrote that “If ever there was a book calculated to make a man in love with its author, this appears to me to be the book. She speaks of her sorrows, in a way that fills us with melancholy, and dissolves us in tenderness, at the same time that she displays a genius which commands all our admiration.”[38] Once Wollstonecraft became pregnant, they decided to marry so that their child would be legitimate. Their marriage revealed the fact that Wollstonecraft had never been married to Imlay, and as a result she and Godwin lost many friends. Godwin received further criticism because he had advocated the abolition of marriage in his philosophical treatise Political Justice.[39] After their marriage on 29 March 1797, they moved into two adjoining houses, known as The Polygon, so that they could both still retain their independence; they often communicated by letter.[40] By all accounts, theirs was a happy and stable, though tragically brief, relationship.[41]

Death and Godwin’s Memoirs

On 30 August 1797, Wollstonecraft gave birth to her second daughter, Mary. Although the delivery seemed to go well initially, the placenta broke apart during the birth and became infected; puerperal (childbed) fever was a common and often fatal occurrence in the eighteenth century.[42] After several days of agony, Wollstonecraft died of septicaemia on 10 September.[43] Godwin was devastated: he wrote to his friend Thomas Holcroft, “I firmly believe there does not exist her equal in the world. I know from experience we were formed to make each other happy. I have not the least expectation that I can now ever know happiness again.”[44] She was buried at Old Saint Pancras Churchyard, where her tombstone reads, “Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: Born 27 April 1759: Died 10 September 1797.”[45] (In 1851, her remains were moved by her grandson Percy Florence Shelley to his family tomb in Bournemouth.)[46]

In January 1798 Godwin published his Memoirs of the Author of A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Although Godwin felt that he was portraying his wife with love, compassion, and sincerity, many readers were shocked that he would reveal Wollstonecraft’s illegitimate children, love affairs, and suicide attempts.[47] The Romantic poet Robert Southey accused him of “the want of all feeling in stripping his dead wife naked” and vicious satires such as The Unsex’d Females were published.[48] Godwin’s Memoirs portrays Wollstonecraft as a woman deeply invested in feeling who was balanced by his reason and as more of a religious sceptic than her own writings suggest.[49] Godwin’s views of Wollstonecraft were perpetuated throughout the nineteenth century and resulted in poems such as “Wollstonecraft and Fuseli” by British poet Robert Browning and that by William Roscoe which includes the lines:

Hard was thy fate in all the scenes of life
As daughter, sister, mother, friend, and wife;
But harder still, thy fate in death we own,
Thus mourn’d by Godwin with a heart of stone.[50]

Legacy

Brown plaque of Wollstonecraft's final home, in Camden

Brown plaque on the site of Wollstonecraft’s last residence, The Polygon, St Pancras, London.

Wollstonecraft has had what scholar Cora Kaplan labelled in 2002 a “curious” legacy: “for an author-activist adept in many genres… up until the last quarter-century Wollstonecraft’s life has been read much more closely than her writing”.[51] After the devastating effect of Godwin’s Memoirs, Wollstonecraft’s reputation lay in tatters for a century; she was pilloried by such writers as Maria Edgeworth, who patterned the “freakish” Harriet Freke in Belinda (1801) after her. Other novelists such as Mary Hays, Charlotte Turner Smith, Fanny Burney, and Jane West created similar figures, all to teach a “moral lesson” to their readers.[52] (Hays had been a close friend, and helped nurse her in her dying days.[53]) Scholar Virginia Sapiro states that few read Wollstonecraft’s works during the nineteenth century as “her attackers implied or stated that no self-respecting woman would read her work”.[54] (In fact, as Craciun points out, new editions of Rights of Woman appeared in the UK in the 1840s, and in the US in the 1830s, 1840s, and 1850s.[55]) One of those few was Elizabeth Barrett Browning, who read Rights of Woman aged 12, and whose poem Aurora Leigh reflected “Wollstonecraft’s unwavering focus on education”.[56] Another was Lucretia Mott,[57] a Quaker minister and activist against slavery who helped organize the Seneca Falls Convention, an influential women’s rights convention held in 1848. Another who read Wollstonecraft was George Eliot, a prolific writer of reviews, articles, novels, and translations. In 1855, she devoted an essay to the roles and rights of women, comparing Wollstonecraft and Margaret Fuller. Fuller was an American journalist, critic, and women’s right activist who, like Wollstonecraft, had travelled to the Continent, been involved in the struggle for reform (in this case the Roman Republic), and had a child by a man without marrying him.[58] Wollstonecraft’s children’s work was adapted by Charlotte Mary Yonge in 1870.[59]

With the rise of the movement to give women a political voice, Wollstonecraft’s work was exhumed. The first full-length biography,[55] by Elizabeth Robins Pennell, appeared in 1884 as part of a series by the Roberts Brothers on famous women.[60] This followed an attempt at rehabilitation in 1879, with the publication of Wollstonecraft’s Letters to Imlay, with prefatory memoir by C. Kegan Paul.[61] Millicent Garrett Fawcett, a suffragist and later president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, wrote the introduction to the centenary edition (i.e. 1892) of the Rights of Woman, cleansing the memory of Wollstonecraft and claiming her as the foremother of the struggle for the vote.[62] With the advent of the modern feminist movement, women as politically dissimilar from each other as Virginia Woolf and Emma Goldman embraced Wollstonecraft’s life story.[63] By 1929 Woolf described Wollstonecraft—her writing, arguments, and “experiments in living”—as immortal: “she is alive and active, she argues and experiments, we hear her voice and trace her influence even now among the living”.[64] Others, however, continued to decry Wollstonecraft’s lifestyle.[65]

With the emergence of feminist criticism in academia in the 1960s and 1970s, Wollstonecraft’s works returned to prominence. Their fortunes reflected that of the second wave of the feminist movement itself; for example, in the early 1970s, six major biographies of Wollstonecraft were published that presented her “passionate life in apposition to [her] radical and rationalist agenda”.[66] In the 1980s and 1990s, yet another image of Wollstonecraft emerged, one which described her as much more a creature of her time; scholars such as Claudia Johnson, Gary Kelly, and Virginia Sapiro demonstrated the continuity between Wollstonecraft’s thought and other important eighteenth-century ideas regarding topics such as sensibility, economics, and political theory.

Wollstonecraft’s work has also had an effect on feminism outside the academy in recent years. Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a political writer and former Muslim who is critical of Islam in general and its dictates regarding women in particular, cited the Rights of Woman in her autobiography Infidel and wrote that she was “inspired by Mary Wollstonecraft, the pioneering feminist thinker who told women they had the same ability to reason as men did and deserved the same rights”.[67]

She has also inspired more widely. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, the Indian economist and philosopher who first identified the missing women of Asia, draws repeatedly on Wollstonecraft as a political philosopher in The Idea of Justice (2009). Richard Reeves, then head of the thinktank Demos, considers her an important figure in the development of republican ideas.[68]

One thought on “Street art: Classy ‘graffiti’ mystery at New Unity Unitarian Church in London – 100313 2020z

Goaty's News welcomes your replies. Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s