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Let's Get Visible! Why Our Cities Need a Fem-Over

16/03/2016 21:23 | Updated 17 March 2017

all women everywhere

"I demand Justice for one half of the human race" was Mary Wollstonecraft's rallying cry, the first call for gender equality in the English language. The campaign group Mary on the Green demands justice too - in the shape of a long-overdue memorial to the foremother of feminism.

The distance we still have to go can easily be measured. It's right there on the streets, embodied in marble and bronze. More than nine out of ten of London's statues are of men. Other cities don't fare much better. According to their history, you'd think womankind never even got out of bed.

For five years now we've been campaigning for this to change. The issue is women's visibility. I want my daughters to see that women throughout history have contributed to the world in vital and significant ways.

Both the opposition and the government have voiced their support for Mary on the Green, with Jeremy Corbyn's call "Let's start with a statue of Mary Wollstonecraft!" and Nicky Morgan agreeing that "women need more statues in prominent places."

Why Wollstonecraft? She was a ground-breaking philosopher for starters. The Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has called her "perhaps the most underestimated thinker of the Enlightenment." She was also an icon of social mobility, and she argued for women's political representation a century before the Suffragettes.

In the words of historian Mary Beard, "every woman who wants to make an impact on the way this country is run, from the House of Commons to the pub quiz, has Mary Wollstonecraft to thank."

Personally, I took inspiration from the fearless travels in her madcap treasure-hunt, which I retraced while writing In Search of Mary. It was a Wollstonecraft roller-coaster, the trip of a lifetime. And yet despite her legacy and her enormous life (her status as Frankenstein's grandmother is the least of it) Mary Wollstonecraft has no significant memorial anywhere.

But why stop there? It's clear that our campaign chimes with wider calls for effigy equality. Others are looking beyond those martial heroes on horseback, for a more diverse representation of history. Now that Wollstonecraft's in our grasp, why not Emily Bronte, Shirley Bassey, Sylvia Pankhurst, Helen Sharman? The list goes on.

Even I, a feminist and Wollstonecraft nut-job, can recognise that there shouldn't only be more statues of women. We also need high-vis tributes to our scientists, artists, singers and writers, as well as our political heroes. The world that's celebrated on pedestals and platforms should look like the kind of world we want to live in.

Mary on the Green's triumph in catching high-level political attention has given rise to the usual 'whataboutery' on social media. "What about FGM?" people helpfully point out; "What about the pay gap?" Well, yes. You may think that statues are trivial in comparison, just a pigeon-perch near a park bench. But you'd be wrong.

This is nothing less than the "unmaking of history" - to borrow from Dr Amanda Foreman. It's about redressing the narrative of thousands of years: the narrative in which only triumphant military men achieve visibility.

For the record I'm not remotely interested in taking anyone's statue down. It's just high time we got some new ones. So that school kids in Hackney, Liverpool and Manchester can look up to people who look a bit more like them; people who achieved great things and are finally recognised as having done so. In the words of the mighty Wollstonecraft: "I do not wish [women] to have power over men, but over themselves."

HuffPost UK is running a month-long project in March called All Women Everywhere, providing a platform to reflect the diverse mix of female experience and voices in Britain today. Through blogs, features and video, we'll be exploring the issues facing women specific to their age, ethnicity, social status, sexuality and gender identity. If you'd like to blog on our platform around these topics, email ukblogteam@huffingtonpost.com with a summary of who you are and what you'd like to blog about

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