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Monumental Welsh Women celebrated one year after unveiling of Betty Campbell statue

25 Sep 2022 5 minute read
Betty Campbell statue Cardiff, CC BY-SA 4.0

A campaign to commemorate real Welsh women with a series of monuments around Wales is celebrating the first anniversary of the unveiling of their first statue.

Monumental Welsh Women (MWW) initially aimed to get just one statue erected in Cardiff and they launched the Hidden Heroines campaign, asking the public to vote for who they would wish to see immortalised, from a shortlist of five historical Welsh women.

The competition was ultimately won by Betty Campbell, Wales’ first black headteacher who championed her nation’s multicultural heritage throughout her life.

But the response from the public was such that MWW quickly decided that one statue was not enough and set themselves the challenge to erect 5 statues commemorating  the 5 amazing Welsh women on the shortlist, in 5 locations around Wales in just 5 years.

As well as Betty Campbell, Cranogwen, Elizabeth Andrews, Elaine Morgan and Margaret Haig Thomas (Lady Rhondda) also made the shortlist.

Monumental Welsh Women received £100,000 towards the cost of the statues from Welsh Government but anticipated that each statue could cost between £50k-£100k to build.

So far, they have successfully delivered the iconic Betty Campbell Monument in Cardiff and the beautiful statue of Elaine Morgan in Mountain Ash.

The statue of Cranogwen has been commissioned and a location designated in Llangrannog, and the commissioning process for Lady Rhondda is imminent.

BettyCampbell_detail children reading tree of life group CC BY-SA 4.0

Betty Campbell

The statue of Wales’ first black head teacher, Betty Campbell, was unveiled in Central Square, Cardiff a year ago today, the first statue of a named, non-fictional woman in an outdoor public space in Wales.

Born in Cardiff in 1934, from a Welsh Mother and Jamaican Father, Betty Campbell became a schoolteacher in 1963 and in the early 1970s, she became the nation’s first black Head Teacher with her post at Mount Stuart Primary in Butetown.

During the 1980s she became a member of the Board of BBC Wales, overseeing editorial and production issues. In 2003, she was made an honorary fellow of UWIC for services to education and community life, for which she was also awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.

In 2015, she was presented with her lifetime achievement award by Kebba Manneh, chair of Unison Cymru Wales’ Black Members Group, for her lifetime contribution to Black History in Education in Wales.

It’s been said that Black History Month in the UK can be traced back to trips, class assemblies and workshops organised by Mrs Campbell in 1973. This forged the way for Black History Wales 365, where Black History is taught and celebrated not just annually, but throughout the year.

It was designed and created by Eve Shepherd and has been shortlisted for the Public Statue and Sculpture Association Marsh Award.

Statue of Elaine Morgan image by Monumental Welsh Women

Elaine Morgan

The second statue, honouring the pioneering writer, evolutionary theorist and trailblazing feminist Elaine Morgan, was unveiled in Mountain Ash in March this year.

Elaine Morgan excelled in both the arts and science and became a top TV writer, a feminist icon, and a ground-breaking evolutionary theorist.

In a career spanning 30 years, she won a host of awards and scripted some of the best-loved dramas in television history – including How Green Was My Valley and The Life and Times of Lloyd George.

Her statue, designed and created by renowned sculptor Emma Rodgers, is sited outside Meddygfa Glan Cynon Surgery in Mountain Ash, Rhondda Cynon Taf with the permission of Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board

Helen Molyneux, founder of Monumental Welsh Women group said: “Elaine was a wonderful dramatist and feminist icon, and we are thrilled to be able to immortalise her achievements so that she will be remembered in her hometown and beyond for years to come.”

Cranogwen

Acclaimed artist Sebastien Boyesen is working with emerging post graduate sculptor, Keziah Ferguson, to craft a life-size figurative sculpture of Sarah Jane Rees, better known by her bardic name ‘Cranogwen’,

It will take pride of place in the centre of Llangrannog, Ceredigion, near the church where she is buried

She was at various times during the 19th century a mariner, poet, teacher, journalist, preacher and political campaigner.

The sculpture will commemorate Cranogwen’s extraordinary life and her many and varied achievements, made despite the widespread sentiment against women working outside the home and with the limited opportunities available to them in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Helen Molyneux said: “Cranogwen was an inspirational woman whose reputation and influence spread not just across Wales but internationally, at a time when many women rarely left villages they were born in.”

Elizabeth Andrews, Betty Campbell, Cranogwen, Elaine Morgan and Lady Rhondda

Future statues

Plans for the statues to celebrate the remarkable lives of Lady Rhondda and Elizabeth Andrews are still in progress, and the initial five year goal remains well within reach.

You can follow the work of Monumental Welsh Women, and support the ongoing fundraising efforts by visiting their website or follow them on Twitter.


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George Thomas
George Thomas
2 months ago

This is excellent!

Geoffrey ap.
Geoffrey ap.
2 months ago

One glaring omission is Gwenllian fetch Gruffydd who led an army against the English invaders and was murdered along with her son at Kidweli in 1136. A true hero of Cymru, the only woman , that I can recall since Boudicca, to lead an army in battle, which led to The Great Revival and the restoration of large part of Cymru back in our hands. She was also the mother of The Lord Rhys and is reported to have compiled The Tails we now call The Mabinogion. I think she should have her statue in the now vacant place in… Read more »

Ivor Schilling
Ivor Schilling
2 months ago

Pushing the boundaries of the definition of ‘Welsh’ here.

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