Magazine August 16, 2021, Issue

Feminism’s Misremembered Mother

Suffragettes at the U.S. Capitol in 1919. (Harris & Ewing/Library of Congress)
The Rights of Women: Reclaiming a Lost Vision, by Erika Bachiochi (Notre Dame Press, 422 pp., $35)

In Newington Green, a park in north London, stands a silver figurine atop a mesh of scrambled metal: a naked woman, with about as much distinctiveness to commend her as a store-window mannequin. The sculpture, intended as an effigy of the eminent 18th-century philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft, caused controversy last year when it was unveiled to the British public. The artist responsible, Maggi Hambling, said the Wollstone­craft statue was designed that way in order to represent “every woman.” Which is an odd thing to say, since Wollstonecraft is best remembered for being exceptional.

The controversy over the statue is symbolic of the

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