News

Wollstonecraft’s 261st Birthday: two exciting ways to celebrate

This year’s Celebration may have been postponed, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be celebrating!

The Newington Green Meeting House is hosting a day of digital celebration on Monday 27 April via social media. Head to their website for more information on how to participate: https://www.ngmh.org.uk/blog/celebrating-marys-birthday-monday-27th-april

It will also be the day of the official launch Wollstonecraft Walks App:
Celebrate Mary Wollstonecraft’s 261st birthday by taking a walk around the birthplace of feminism, Newington Green! You can follow in the footsteps of the champion of girls education, Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797). The app focuses on the life and times of Mary Wollstonecraft and her impact on women, politics and 21st century society and culture. You’ll discover secrets about Mary, her life and her Green. With virtual walking guides, podcasts, performance archives and school resources.

Mary Wollstonecraft Fellowship Reading Group 2019-20

Next MWF Reading Group: May – Mary Wollstonecraft, Letters Written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (1796).

It seems best in view of current uncertainties to put off our next gathering until May, when we’ll be discussing Mary Wollstonecraft’s Letters Written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (1796).

Check back here for more information, or follow us on Twitter @MW_Fellowship for suggestions on how to participate remotely in our on-going activities.

Next meeting of the MWF Reading Group Friday, 7 February, 5:30 – 7

Text: Mary Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Woman, or Maria (1798)

Venue: Moot Court, 1st floor, Law School Building King’s College London, East wing of Somerset House, The Strand. You can ask for directions at the Main Reception in The Strand, though our host Dr Alan Coffee will aim to meet members there.

The nearby café Fernandez & Wells where some of us met beforehand in November has closed. There seems to be another café called ‘Hej’ in the South wing of Somerset House, which I may check out this time round.

Please email Emma Clery at E.J.Clery@soton.ac.uk to say you’ll be coming so she can leave a list with King’s College Reception.

A report on the January Reading Group:

I’d just like to thank everyone who’s participated so far; it’s been a stimulating series of conversations, from which I’ve learned a lot. The level of engagement at the last meeting, on Mary Wollstonecraft’s compendium of extracts The Female Reader, was phenomenal. Trudie had actually visited one of the five surviving copies in the Bodleian Library, and was able to tell us about its diminutive size and share photo images. She was able to reveal that intriguingly, Wollstonecraft had retitled a poem by Shenstone to adapt it to the theme of dress in one section of her anthology. Jacqui had delved into references in John Gay’s fable ‘The Pin and the Needle’ uncovering its links to a cabinet of curiosities at Gresham College, London’s oldest higher education institute. Deborah introduce a beautiful poem on the relationship of ideas to sounds in rural life by William Cowper. Cowper anticipates Wordsworth, and emerged from our sharing of information as the key poet of sensibility in Wollstonecraft’s formative years. Anna Letitia Barbauld was another star poet, from the 1770s onwards, personally known to Wollstonecraft in the revolutionary period, author of the politically resonant ‘The Mouse’s Petition’, introduced by Roberta. Chris brought forward another surprisingly political poem, ‘Sonnet 3: to a Nightingale’ by Charlotte Smith, like Wollstonecraft a ‘Jacobin’ writer, who uses the traditions of lyric verse to highlight the wrongs of women. Alan spoke to the other text discussed at the meeting, Rousseau’s Emile and in particular Part 5 dealing with female education, noting the way Catharine Macaulay’s Letters on Education (1790) anticipate some of the criticisms of Vindication of the Rights of Woman. Finally, Miriam directed our attention to the prominence of religious writings in The Female Reader, including four prayers apparently written, though without attribution, by Wollstonecraft herself. The conversation was full of remarkable insights, exploring previously uncharted regions of Wollstonecraft’s thought-world, and showing how much remains to be discovered.

Our text for February, Wollstonecraft’s The Wrongs of Woman; or, Maria is much better known, and has generated a great deal of criticism. However I’m sure that focusing in on specific passages will generate new ideas. As before, it would be great if everyone could choose a short section that interests you, to share with the group and provide a springboard for general discussion.

All the best, Emma

2020 Reading Group Programme

Meetings 5:30 to 7 pm on the second Friday of each month.

Venue: Moot Court, 1st floor, Law School Building King’s College London, East wing of Somerset House, The Strand; hosted by Dr Alan Coffee. Meet beforehand at Fernandez & Wells cafe, in East Wing of Somerset House courtyard, or else Alan will meet us at the entrance.

7 February – Mary Wollstonecraft, The Wrongs of Woman, or Maria (1798)

13 March – William Godwin, The Adventures of Caleb Williams (1794)

10 April (Good Friday – move back to 3 April?) – Elizabeth Inchbald, Nature and Art (1796)

8 May – Mary Wollstonecraft, Letters Written during a Short Residence in Sweden, Norway and Denmark (1796).

12 June – To be confirmed.

January Reading Group

10 January – JJ Rousseau, Emile, or Education (1762), with a focus on Part 5, introducing Sophie. Lots of modern translations available. Wollstonecraft cites Emilius and Sophia, or A New System of Education (1763) a translation by William Kenrick, available free from Google Books online.*  

Note: We will also be covering Wollstonecraft’s selection of poetry from The Female Reader (1789), held over from our cancelled December meeting.

Vol. I https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=rMTtxmzy6gMC&source=gbs_book_other_versions

Vol. II https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=4m2BH26nBVcC&pg=PA1&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4#v=onepage&q&f=false

Vol. III https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Kj4lF_PlrqoC&source=gbs_book_other_versions

Vol. IV https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=mMKxVc3bqgwC&source=gbs_book_other_versions

* I’m also going to try reading Eloisa, 1761 translation by William Kenrick

of Rousseau’s novel Julie, ou La Nouvelle Heloise. If you’re interested in giving it a whirl, it’s at:

Volume 1 https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=yi8Lyy6uxqMC&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Volume 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2z1JAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Volume 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=2z1JAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false

Volume 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=u06hZ0ptH5YC&printsec=frontcover&dq=Rousseau+Eloisa+Kenrick+volume+4&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjFgKnbz9jlAhWRT8AKHb6ZCqQQ6AEIKTAA#v=onepage&q&f=false

Mary Wollstonecraft Fellowship Reading Group, next meeting Friday 8 November 2019, at a new venue

We had an excellent launch meeting of the reading group on 11 October at The Somers Town Coffee House, with lively discussion of Mary, A Fiction: Wollstonecraft’s treatment of sensibility, its semi-autobiographical nature, the geographic scope and narrative style and much more. Thanks to all those who came and contributed. We also had a chance to meet Bob Lamm, a New York based columnist, and hear how he, when a member of a men’s group who were reading Wollstonecraft in the 1970s, lobbied for the display of the 1797 Opie portrait of her at the National Portrait Gallery, and eventually won! You can find the whole story here.

While it was nice to be able to buy drinks, the surrounding noise level was too high and so we’re on the move…

Thanks to Alan Coffee of the Mary Wollstonecraft Philosophical Society, who lectures in Law at King’s College London, we now have a new venue:

The meeting on 8 November, 5:30-7 pm, will take place at King’s College, University of London, in Room S.03 in the Strand Building, in the Strand near Somerset House, WC2R 2ND – go to the front (main) entrance. Important: please contact me to confirm you’re coming so we can give a list of names to security staff at reception.

The text for discussion: Mary Wollstonecraft, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787). Please choose a particular passage that interests you to share with the group.

The MWF reading group takes place on the second Friday of each month, at 5:30-7 pm. From 13 December onwards, Alan has been able to book a meeting room in the West wing of Somerset House itself, Moot Court in the Law School School Building, The Strand.

On 13 December, 5:30-7 pm, we’ll be discussing Wollstonecraft’s selection of poetry from The Female Reader (1789). Please could all who’d like to attend choose one poem for discussion (and a specific passage if it’s a long poem), and let me know in advance so I can prepare texts.

Emma Clery; E.J.Clery@soton.ac.uk

Mary Wollstonecraft Fellowship
Reading Group – Autumn 2019

During 2019-20, October to May, the Mary Wollstonecraft Fellowship will launch a monthly reading group to explore the writings of Wollstonecraft and her circle. The venue will be in central London, but it will also be possible to participate virtually: time, location and initial text to be confirmed by August 2019. Please join the mailing list for further information.

Mary Wollstonecraft Fellowship Reading Group launching Friday 11 October 2019 Gatherings will take place at 5:30 to 7 pm on the second Friday of each month from October 2019 to May 2020, at The Somers Town Coffee House, 60 Chalton Street close to Euston and King’s Cross stations, the British Library and The Polygon, Wollstonecraft’s last home. We’ve reserved a secluded corner of the ground floor bar, which staff say works successfully for other book groups. If we find it too noisy, we’ll explore other possible venues for later meetings.

The programme pre-Christmas is:

11 October: Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary, A Fiction (1788)

8 November: Mary Wollstonecraft, Thoughts on the Education of Daughters (1787)

13 December: Poetry from Wollstonecraft’s The Female Reader (1789)

I’d like to suggest that to get discussion going, each person chooses a passage that interests them, to read aloud (if they wish) and comment on. In the case of the poems, members of the group could pick one or two of the texts included in The Female Reader to share. Drop me a line if you’re interested in coming to the first gathering in October, so I have some idea of numbers: E.J.Clery@soton.ac.uk.

Newsletter September 2019

Mary Wollstonecraft in the West End!
– 30 September 2019

Fundraiser for The Wollstonecraft Society on 30 September Our sister organisation The Wollstonecraft Society is holding what promises to be an extraordinary event this month. An Amazon Stept Out (the title comes from a reference to Wollstonecraft in a poem by William Roscoe) is a one-off evening with one of history’s unsung heroes: the pioneering rebel, Mary Wollstonecraft. Anita Rani and Jude Kelly and a star-studded cast will bring to life the inspirational story of the ‘original suffragette.’ Wollstonecraft was an Enlightenment icon and human rights champion. She reported from the front lines of Revolutionary Paris, and travelled to Scandinavia in search of lost silver, toddler in tow. Why were her life and legacy considered so dangerous? This unique production is your chance to experience her world-changing words as they’ve never been heard before. An Amazon Stept Out is written by Bee Rowlatt, directed by Honor Borwick with musical contributions assembled by Harriet Houghton Slade. For one night only and in aid of the human rights education charity The Wollstonecraft Society (charity number 1181867). Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, London, W1D 7ES. 7.30pm (Running Time approx 1hr 5mins no interval), Monday, 30 September 2019. All Tickets £38. Book here: https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/shows/an-amazon-stept-out/

Women’s Rights at Chawton House
– Autumn 2019

There’s a non-stop fiesta of wonderful displays, workshops, speakers and performance this autumn at Chawton House, home of the world’s only rare books collection dedicated to early women writers. Don’t miss the small but powerful exhibit ‘Writing Women’s Rights’, showcasing early editions from the library, and new work ‘Mary Wollstonecraft at the Palace of Versailles’ by the brilliant Louisa Albani, who showed her illustrations at the 2019 Celebration. There will be a ‘Rebel Women Writers Workshop’ on 29 September, followed by a host of fantastic talks in October, including inspirational Bee Rowlatt (Chair of The Wollstonecraft Society) on 17 October discussing her journey ‘In the Footsteps of Mary’, and a performance based on the life of another great rebellious literary Mary – Mary Wortley Montagu – on 16 November.

Second Annual Celebration of Mary Wollstonecraft: 24-26 April 2020

We hope to see you again at the next Celebration. This will be held at the Newington Green Meeting House, in the very chapel where Mary Wollstonecraft once worshipped. Built in 1708, it has been a home of radical thinking for over 300 years. In 2018 it was awarded £1.73 million pounds by the Heritage Lottery Fund for renovation and transformation into an exhibition space and community centre. At the centre of its mission as a heritage site is the idea of ‘uncovering the Dissenters’ legacy at the birthplace of feminism’. Roberta Wedge, a member of the New Unity non-religious congregation at Newington Green and leading light of both The Wollstonecraft Society and Mary Wollstonecraft Fellowship, has initiated plans for this event. There will be talks by scholars and activists on Friday and Saturday, and a community afternoon on Sunday afternoon, all celebrating the reopening of the Meeting House after a year of renovation work in addition to Wollstonecraft’s birthday on 27 April. The theme of the event will be: Wollstonecraft and Dissent. A website for registration will be available next month.

The Mary Wollstonecraft Fellowship joins the Alliance of Literary Societies

At last! A long-standing wrong has been put right, and a literary society dedicated to study and celebration of the life and works of Mary Wollstonecraft is listed, between The P.G. Wodehouse Society and The Parson Woodforde Society. Here is the short text describing the Fellowship, at https://allianceofliterarysocieties.wordpress.com/2017/05/23/u-to-z:

Display at Chawton House
Writing Women’s Rights:
The pen in their hands.”

Until the end of 2019, Chawton House near Alton in Hampshire has a display of texts from its library collection of rare works by early women writers, titled Writing Women’s Rights: “The pen in their hands. It presents early editions of works by writers from Bathsua Makin (c.1600-c.1673) to Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) who took on issues of equality, gender difference, biology as destiny, women in politics, education and equal pay. Issues we think as intrinsically modern have their origins in the long eighteenth century. Long before the Suffragists and Suffragettes, long before feminist movements and #MeToo, the pen was in these eighteenth-century women’s hands!

More details here: https://chawtonhouse.org/whats-on/display-writing-womens-rights/

About the Mary Wollstonecraft Fellowship

Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797), author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women (1792) is hailed internationally as a founder of modern feminism. In her short but eventful life she worked as a journalist and translator in London, observed the revolution in France and toured Scandinavia, leaving a diverse body of writings ranging from education and politics to philosophy, history, travelogue and fiction. She was at the centre of radical Romanticism, her friends including Thomas Paine, Mary Hays, Helen Maria Williams and William Godwin, who became her husband. Her second daughter, Mary, authored Frankenstein and married Percy Bysshe Shelley. Membership of the Fellowship is open to everyone with an interest in this visionary thinker, her circle and her legacy. Scholars, enthusiasts, students and activists are all welcome. It aims to encourage new research and the exchange of ideas by producing a regular newsletter and organising events, including an annual conference on the anniversary of her birth. For more information, visit https://wollstonecraftfellowship.home.blog/.