Statue of pioneering Welsh writer and feminist icon Elaine Morgan unveiled
A statue to honour the pioneering writer, evolutionary theorist and trailblazing feminist Elaine Morgan has been unveiled in Mountain Ash, South Wales following a campaign by the Monumental Welsh Women group.
It is the second ever statue of a named, non-fictionalised woman to be erected in an outdoor public space in Wales, following Monumental Welsh Women’s successful unveiling of the Betty Campbell Monument in Cardiff in September 2021, as part of the mission to erect 5 statues honouring 5 Welsh women in 5 different locations around Wales in 5 years.
The statue of Elaine Morgan, a permanent immortalisation in bronze of the celebrated daughter of the South Wales Valleys, was unveiled in a special ceremony today outside Meddygfa Glan Cynon Surgery in Mountain Ash, Rhondda Cynon Taf with the permission of Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board
It has been designed and created by renowned sculptor Emma Rodgers, who is known for capturing both action and tenderness within her sculptural works. Rodgers’ works convey the power and life force of their subjects.
Ms Rodgers, whose notable works include Liverpool’s statue of Cilla Black – was selected from a shortlist of internationally renowned female sculptors.
She said: “I feel very privileged to be creating one of the first named female sculptures in Wales and incredibly pleased that it is of such an inspirational woman. Elaine Morgan not only had an incredible mind but also a real warmth and nurturing spirit”.
Elaine Morgan was a woman of many talents who changed the world from her desk in Mountain Ash, never abandoning her valleys roots. 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.
Born into a poor mining family in Hopkinstown, she won a scholarship to Oxford University. Upon arrival and hearing her valleys accent, it was assumed she was applying for a job as a cleaner. But Elaine became a star student, chairing political societies and honing her literary skills.
After graduation she taught for three years with the Workers’ Educational Association. Married with three sons by the 1950s, she began writing plays to help make ends meet. One of the first women to make an impact in the male-dominated world of the small screen at this time, her first television scripts were accepted before she even owned a TV set.
In the 1970’s, Elaine Morgan turned her attention to science, taking on another male-dominated sphere with a new theory of human evolution. In her book The Descent of Woman (1972), she argued human evolution should widen its focus beyond the male hunter – females were an equally vital part of the story.
The Descent of Woman was an instant global best-seller. Celebrated in America as a feminist heroine, the book became a key text in the Women’s Liberation movement.
Elaine Morgan published several more books on evolution – including The Aquatic Ape (1982), which again captured global attention; The Scars of Evolution (1990); The Descent of the Child (1994); The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis (1997) and The Naked Darwinist (2008).
Remaining a vital voice well into her old age, more than a million people viewed her Ted Talk on evolutionary theory given when she was 89 years old. Elaine Morgan continued to write her award-winning Western Mail column The Pensioner into her 90s.
She was appointed OBE in 2009 and the same year was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.
Dramatist and feminist icon
The statue of Elaine Morgan is the second project facilitated by Monumental Welsh Women’s funders and partners and with donations by members of the public. The unveiling in Women’s History Month coincides with the 50th year anniversary of the publication of Decent of Woman and 40th year of The Aquatic Ape.
Helen Molyneux, founder of Monumental Welsh Women group said: “Our Mission is to celebrate female ambition and success by commemorating the achievements of great Welsh Women – and to inspire the next generation of great Welsh women.
“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. She was an inspirational woman, and we hope her statue will act as an inspiration to the girls – and boys – of Mountain Ash and everyone who sees her”.
The sculpture was commissioned following the Hidden Heroines campaign organised by Monumental Welsh Women, broadcast on BBC Wales. The other women on the shortlist were Margaret Haig Thomas (Lady Rhondda), Elizabeth Andrews, Sarah Jane Rees (Cranogwen) and Betty Campbell, who became the first woman on the list to be honoured with a statue.
Gareth Morgan, Elaine Morgan’s son said: “I know Elaine would have been delighted with the work of the Monumental Welsh Women statue campaign, not for the recognition of her own achievements but in celebrating the lives of the many extraordinary women that Wales has produced.
“Elaine’s work has helped to inspire women everywhere and I have seen messages to her from women all over the world who wrote to thank her for changing their lives. Some had been inspired to forge a career in science, while others took up writing or some other long held ambition after reading her books, and they all expressed how she had changed their view of women, of science and of themselves.
“Though Emma Rodgers’ talent as a sculptor speaks for itself, I know that Elaine would have been quietly delighted that the commission for her statue was given to a woman. Elaine has been called a campaigner for women’s equality, but secretly I think she believed in women’s superiority!
“In 2013 I escorted her to the ceremony where she was made an honorary freeman of Rhondda Cynon Taf and I know that the affection in which she is held in her homeland meant more to her than all the international awards that she won in her lifetime, so many thanks to all the people and organisations that have worked so hard to make this campaign a success.”
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