Unitarian Church Called the 'Birthplace of Feminism' Needs Repairs

Image via Flickr.
Image via Flickr.

Mary Wollstonecraft, author of A Vindication of the Rights of Women, once attended church at Newington Green, where she was influenced by radical preacher Dr. Richard Price. The unitarian church was a hub for philosophy, discussion and political influence, and now it’s in disrepair.

The Telegraph reports that the church, founded in 1708, is in “poor condition” according to the Historic England foundation, which regularly assesses England’s historic attractions. The church was originally founded by English Dissenters, who were unhappy with the government’s interference with religious groups. Wollstonecraft is said to have been inspired by the many conversations she had with Price and other intellectuals who congregated around Newington Green. In 1790, she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Men, which attacks the aristocracy and supports Republicanism. It’s said to be a direct response to criticism of Price by Edward Burke.

Image via Getty.
Image via Getty.

Wollstonecraft followed it up in 1792, when she wrote A Vindication of the Rights of Women, which is considered one of the earliest works of feminist philosophy and an inspirational text for future feminists, especially the Suffragettes. In it, Wollstonecraft argues that women are denied the education and the physical and emotional development they need, though they raise children and strive to be partners to their husbands, writing:

“I earnestly wish to point out in what true dignity and human happiness consists. I wish to persuade women to endeavor 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 are only the objects of pity, and that kind of love which has been termed its sister, will soon become objects of contempt.”

Wollstonecraft opened a school for girls at Newington Green in 1784, when she herself was only 24, though it closed soon after. An organization called Mary On The Green seeks to erect a statue of Wollstonecraft in the area, arguing that over 90% of England’s commemorative statues are of men:

In March of 2016, The Independent reported that Nicky Morgan, the Education Secretary and Minister for Women, was interested in funding a statue of Wollstonecraft, but she’s not quite there yet.


Contributing Writer, writing my first book for the Dial Press called The Lonely Hunter, follow me on Twitter @alutkin

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I’m proud my parents chose to raise us in the Unitarian Universalist church, because every time I dig around in feminist/anti-fascist/gay rights/civil rights history, there’s always a few Unitarians standing up for what’s right. We are not many, but we have had some amazing people share our banner.