Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, new biography


This video from Britain is called The Life of Mary Shelley.

By Susan Darlington in Britain:

Gripping account of romantic outlaws’ pains and pleasures

Saturday 27th June 2015

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon (Hutchinson, £25)

THE SHELVES are already groaning under the weight of books about Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Romantic Outlaws, however, distinguishes itself by being a dual biography about mother and daughter.

Charlotte Gordon, who has previously written about poet Anne Bradstreet, examines the lives of the radical authors in parallel chapters in what is a hefty tome and in doing so shows how their lives were inextricably linked, despite Wollstonecraft dying 10 days after giving birth as a result of puerperal fever.

It would have been difficult for Shelley not to grow up in awe of her mother. She learned the alphabet from her headstone and Wollstonecraft was venerated by her father, the political philosopher William Godwin, and the intellectuals who visited their house, including Coleridge and Percy Bysshe Shelley, with whom she would elope at the age of 17.

Her upbringing, surrounded by enlightened views, was far removed from that of Wollstonecraft, whose political views were formed as an adolescent growing up with a weak mother and an alcoholic father who squandered the family’s money on failed projects. This made her determined to live on her own terms, free from financial or social dependence on men.

It was a resolution that resulted in her chasing pirates in Scandinavia and visiting Paris during the revolution. It was a city her daughter would visit 20 years later under very different circumstances, amid concerns over the new industrial age.

This would affect their writing — Wollstonecraft’s travel journals were largely optimistic while Shelley’s Frankenstein voiced a note of caution about science without ethics.

Yet while this writing gave both mother and daughter a degree of financial independence, their lives had a central contradiction in their emotional subservience to the men they loved. Wollstonecraft became obsessed with unscrupulous businessman Gilbert Imlay while her daughter suffered periods of depressive anxiety over the faithfulness of Shelley.

Their belief in free love affected not just on their own lives but had tragic consequences for women on the periphery, the book being littered with the suicides of Shelley’s first wife Harriet and Wollstonecraft’s daughter by Imlay, Fanny.

It’s a pain for which Shelley would later come to feel she was being punished for inflicting and this absence of sisterhood where love was concerned is an area that deserves more detailed analysis.

Another aspect that could be covered in more depth is the footnotes of their lives, with Godwin’s memoir of Wollstonecraft having the unintentionally damaging effect of portraying her as a hysteric. Shelley’s reputation was equally damaged by her conservative daughter-in-law Jane, who shaped her as a respectable literary wife at the cost of her desire to live along feminist ideals.

These minor points aside, this is an engaging book that shows clear affection for its subjects. It subtly points out how little progress feminism has made in some areas — the central tenets of chick lit being the same as the ones Wollstonecraft decried in 18th-century novels — and it certainly demonstrates both the excitement and pain of being a romantic outlaw.

Manchester, England, only one statue of a woman


This video from England, recorded in 2001, says about itself:

Unveiling Statue Of Victoria At Manchester

Lord Roberts with civic dignitaries unveils statue of Queen Victoria after making short speech.

By Bernadette Hyland:

Feminist monument or progress standing still

Tuesday 23rd June 2015

BERNADETTE HYLAND explores a bid to redress gender imbalance in Manchester’s statues by memorialising a famous woman

ANDREW SIMCOCK, Labour councillor for the leafy, affluent suburb of East Didsbury in Manchester, has instigated a campaign to try to rebalance the male-female ratio of public statues in the city. Of its 17 statues, only one is of a woman — Queen Victoria.

He says: “Like many people I was unaware that there were no statues dedicated to women in the city centre, and it seemed to me to be an injustice that should be righted.” Simcock has got Manchester City Council to support his idea and a shortlist of 20 women has been drawn up.

He is asking the public to donate to the campaign and stresses that no public money will be used. Simcock has paid for an advertising agency to promote the campaign and has embarked on a nationwide bike ride to raise money for the statue.

Estimated costs range from £120,000 to £500,000.

The Queen Victoria statue has a long history as a meeting place for political events in Manchester. In 1908 the Suffragettes were trying to get women to go to London for a huge procession, so they used the statue to advertise the meeting with a card displaying the Women’s Social and Political Union motto and a placard with details of a meeting the following evening.

A crowd gathered, the police arrived and ordered the removal of the placards. The event got in all the papers and gave the Suffragettes the publicity they needed.

So who are the 20 women on the shortlist? Well, as you would expect, the Pankhursts are there: Emmeline, Sylvia and Christabel. But there are also grassroots activists including socialist Hannah Mitchell, suffragist Lydia Becker and trade unionists Mary Quaile and Esther Roper.

Prominent politicians including Labour education minister Ellen Wilkinson, Shena Simon and Margaret Ashton appear alongside the odd Tory, such as Katherine Ollerenshaw, who was a councillor and adviser to Margaret Thatcher.

Others range from Louise Da-Cocodia, a nurse and activist in the Afro-Caribbean community, to Sunny Lowry, who was the first woman to swim the English Channel.

Across the north-west (and maybe beyond) new public statues have been dominated by entertainers. Morecambe’s statue of local boy Eric Morecambe is one of the most popular places for tourists to visit. Liverpool has Ken Dodd and Labour MP Bessie Braddock together, which might be a political comment, while north-west council Rochdale is putting up a statue to singer and actress Gracie Fields, a woman dubbed by a local Labour councillor as the Madonna of her era. Shouldn’t it be the other way round?

Underneath the overhyped 24/7 image, Manchester is a city facing major challenges because of government cuts as well as the choices made about where those cuts should be made by the Labour Council. Only 46 per cent of Mancunians voted in the general election, which is a sign of the increasing division between the people and the political system.

Manchester is the fifth most deprived area in Britain, and walking around the city, the increasing levels of poverty are obvious in the deteriorating state of its public places, as well as the way in which some groups of people, including the homeless, are taking their campaigns literally to the streets.

What do Mancunians think about having a new statue of a woman? Over 100 people turned up to the launch and Simcock believes the Womanchester Statue project “has struck a chord with people in Manchester.”

Annette Wright, president of Manchester Trades Council, hopes the debate will inspire new activists to get involved in local politics. “As the shortlist clearly illustrates, women have played a major role in campaigning, protesting and organising in the trade union movement in Manchester. We have a long way to go to give them all the recognition they deserve.

“By building the union movement in the present day, making sure women play a full role in this and remembering the women who played such significant roles in the past, we can start to go some way to addressing this. We can learn a great deal and be inspired by the examples of labour movement pioneers.”

Local historian Alison Ronan is a supporter of Margaret Ashton to win. “It seems to me that it is important that the statue represents a woman who was committed to Manchester and its citizens.”

Ashton was the first female councillor for Manchester (a Liberal), a committed pacifist and internationalist and campaigner for women’s and workers’ rights, including the vote.

Manchester NUJ activist Rachel Broady is more cynical, particularly about the whole role of statues: “It would be great if the list of women helps create a debate and reminds people of Manchester’s radical history rather than repeat the same, often limited, story of the Suffragettes. Ultimately, though, I think funding education — in schools and beyond — about our radical past, and the men and women involved, would be of more value than one more statue for the pigeons to sit on.”

Project worker and activist in the Mary Quaile Club Ciara Sullivan is also not impressed about either the statue or the fact that it is going be paid for by the public: “I think that makes it much worse. That makes it feel like a distraction to divert attention from areas still needing fixing and funding and using historical achievements as a diversion.”

It is now a question of whether the good people of Manchester will cough up the tens of thousands to pay for the statue and then vote for the woman whose legacy it will honour.

For further details see www.womanchesterstatue.org.

British government deporting Syrian feminist to death in Saudi Arabia?


This January 2015 video is called Woman Beheaded in the Middle of the Road in Saudi Arabia.

By Peter Lazenby in Britain:

Syrian women’s rights campaigner faces deportation and certain death

Saturday 20th June 2015

A SYRIAN refugee living in Leeds faces deportation to Saudi Arabia where she faces almost certain death, campaigners said yesterday.

Raja Khouja, a women’s rights campaigner, is detained at the notorious Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire and is threatened with removal to Saudi Arabia on Thursday next week, June 25.

Ms Khouja’s criticism of women’s rights abuses in Saudi Arabia has sparked email and phone threats of death, imprisonment and mutilation — including for her limbs to be severed — if she goes to Saudi Arabia.

She has lived in Leeds with her Saudi husband Mahmoud Alhassan for four years.

Their asylum request is backed by Leeds-based Positive Action for Refugees and Asylum Seekers.

A spokesman for the group, who has launched a petition against her removal, said she will be in “extreme danger” if she is deported.

“They are much loved and respected by her community of friends here in Leeds and we are gravely concerned for her safety were she to be removed to Saudi Arabia,” they said.

Saudi regime’s documents published by WikiLeaks


This video says about itself:

Saudi women protesting detentions are arrested themselves

20 January 2013

CNN’s Mohammed Jamjoom reports. In Saudi Arabia, a group of women protesting against detentions are arrested, sparking outrage and more protests.

Translated from NOS TV in the Netherlands:

WikiLeaks puts 70,000 Saudi documents online

Today, 18:24

The website WikiLeaks puts today some 70,000 Saudi Arabian diplomatic documents online. They consist of intercepted e-mail traffic between the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other countries and secret documents from other Saudi ministries. Most messages are from the period 2010-2015.

The next few weeks WikiLeaks will publish still nearly half a million more.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange called Saudi Arabia an “ever more unstable and secretive dictatorship, which this year alone has celebrated its 100th beheading, but also has become a threat to its neighbours and to itself”.

The documents, in Arabic, are said to show how the kingdom maintains its relationships, how it strengthens its position as a regional power in the Middle East and bribes people and institutions to establish links.