Wollstonecraft Walks Guide
Researched and written by Anna Birch and Rebecca Mordan
Rebecca Mordan with readings read by Rebecca Boey and Caroline Parker
Hello, I'm Rebecca and I'm here to Welcome you to this Mary Wollstonecraft Living Literature Walk exploring the heritage of Mary Wollstonecraft and Newington Green where she lived. I'm going to give you both directions and some local info, please feel free to pause and rewind these instructions as you need to.
When I'm about to give you some local information I'll say, 'Did you know' and then when that's done, I'll say 'Back to the directions'.
We'll also come to sites along the way where there would have been a live performance on our show days in June 2019, and at these points you'll either hear these readings or I'll tell you about what happened on the site you have reached. Let's get started with a couple of pieces to get you in the mood!
Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
by Mary Wollstonecraft
My own sex, I hope, will excuse me, if I treat them like rational creatures, instead of flattering their FASCINATING graces, and viewing them as if they were in a state of perpetual childhood, unable to stand alone. I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists—I wish to persuade women to endeavour to acquire strength, both of mind and body, and to convince them, that the soft phrases, susceptibility of heart, delicacy of sentiment, and refinement of taste, are almost synonymous with epithets of weakness, and that those beings who are only the objects of pity and that kind of love, which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt.
Dismissing then those pretty feminine phrases, which the men condescendingly use to soften our slavish dependence, and despising that weak elegancy of mind, exquisite sensibility, and sweet docility of manners, supposed to be the sexual characteristics of the weaker vessel, I wish to show that elegance is inferior to virtue, that the first object of laudable ambition is to obtain a character as a human being, regardless of the distinction of sex; and that secondary views should be brought to this simple touchstone.
Let Us All Speak Our Minds! (1863)
by William Brough and J. Gaspard Maeder
Click to see lyrics and chords
- To begin this walk, please make your way to the Mildmay Club on Newington Green and stand with your back to it looking out at the Green; you are facing Mathias Road.
- Turn right and walk past a large concrete obelisk on a stand at the end of the Club's wall which looks like an egg in a cup!
- Walk past PUSH Cycle shop and see Newington Green on your left.
- Continue past famous Belle Époque Patisserie and you arrive at the Unitarian Meeting House now a building site.
Did you know?
When Mary Wollstonecraft was 25, she arrived at Newington Green and attended the sermons by Rational Dissenter Dr Richard Price here in her pew, number 19, which can still be seen inside. As part of her time in Dr Price's circle, Mary would engage with and inspire workers’ rights activist Thomas Paine, publisher Joseph Johnson and artist Henry Fuseli. The Unitarian Meeting House also has a plaque to 18th century woman of letters Anna Laetitia Barbauld, prominent English poet, essayist, literary critic , editor, and author of children's literature . Excitingly this building is currently undergoing a full conservation and restoration funded by National Lottery Heritage Fund which will be completed in 2020 – it may be finished by the time you do this walk!
Back to the directions -
- Peak around the corner of the Unitarian Meeting House and you may catch a glimpse of Mary Wollstonecraft stencil by graffiti artist Stewy – at the time of the walk you could just about see her head peeking over the metal construction gates. This stencil is the first street art to be submitted to the Government Art Collection; limited edition screen prints of the image are available from Mary on the Green maryonthegreen.com to raise money for a memorial to Wollstonecraft on Newington Green.
- Now continue walking forward past the old bank building, which is now private apartments, keeping Newington Green over the road on your left.
- You'll soon come to the pedestrian crossing – use it to cross over. Once on this side of the road, turn immediately to your left and cross at the double pedestrian crossing which takes you across Newington Green; you'll end up in front of popular local restaurant Trattoria.
- Green Lanes is the longest road in London and fashionable Perilla Restaurant is on the corner just behind you.
- Walk straight on past the Chinese Mission and head up the pavement for about 100 yards. Keep Newington Green on your left over the road and the rows of shops such as Yield and Boots on your right.
Did you know?
The Chinese mission, now student accommodation, was built in 1895 to house China Inland Missions, a nonconformist missionary group founded by James Hudson Taylor in 1865. As you might imagine, China Inland Missions specialised in missions to China. But unlike other missionaries, CIM attracted students, single women and members of the working class, making them far more radical and nonconformist than other similar projects. The group also helped spread western medicine, technology and trained doctors to China – Taylor himself was a doctor. Newington Green is steeped in history, for example you are now walking towards the oldest terrace in London.