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Statues of Welsh Women

17th March 2021

I went to church on Sunday via zoom.
The congregation was appalled to learn 
that Wales has not a single statue to
a woman, but relieved to hear that there
will be one chosen from a list of five
deserving candidates. Whom would you choose? 

The first is to Cranogwen the poet,
eighteen thirty nine to nineteen sixteen.
Sarah to her sailor dad John Rees,
she learned from him to navigate a ship
along the Cardiganshire coast. At school
astronomy and Latin, stars and books,
absorbed her agile, smart, receptive mind.
She set up her own navigation school
at Llangrannog her place of birth. She won
a prize in eighteen sixty five at the 
Eisteddfod for her poem Y Fodrwy
or The Wedding Ring 
and publication of her Caniadau 
, her debut collection, 
followed on. She edited the monthly
Y Frythones women's mag promoting
independent thought on God and family.
Cranogwen shared her life with women
not with men and visited the Welsh 
communities in North America 
to talk about her life and poetry. 
She advocated temperance and worshipped
as a methodist and when she died 
a women's shelter Lletty Cranogwen
was established in the Rhondda Valley to
perpetuate her name.
                                        The second statue 
is Eliz'beth Andrews, eighteen eighty
two to nineteen sixty, who was from 
the coal black mining town of Hirwaun
within the Rhondda Valley. She became
a suffragette, she joined the Labour party
and she strove throughout her life to better 
miners' health, pay and conditions. In
the nineteen twenties she campaigned to make 
the mining companies build pithead baths.
A decade later, she created the first 
nursery school in Wales. She was a Justice 
of the Peace, awarded O.B.E.
in nineteen forty eight. To Educate,
to Agitate, to Organise was her 
three-pointed slogan and at seventy 
she wrote A Woman's Work is Never Done,
her memoirs. Never spoke a truer word. 

Number three is Lady Rhondda, eighteen 
eighty three to nineteen fifty eight, 
the daughter of First Viscount Rhondda and 
his heir not only to his title but 
his business interests as well. She grew up
as a suffragette intent on damage
and in nineteen thirteen she blew up 
a letter box for which she was imprisoned.
She went on hunger strike and was
released before completing her ful stretch.
In the First World War she joined her father
whom Lloyd George had sent to Washington 
to buy munitions. On the journey back
their ship the Lusitania was struck
by a torpedo and her ladyship
was pitched into the ocean where she clung
to driftwood until she was rescued. Hundreds
drowned. In nineteen eighteen she became 
the viscountess when daddy died but was 
excluded from the House of Lords on grounds
of sex. She fought to change this and she won
but only after she had died. There hangs 
a portrait of her in the House today
in recognition of her lifelong fight.

The fourth's the T.V. playwright Elaine Morgan
who was still contributing a column
to the Western Mail each week in twenty 
thirteen when she died aged ninety three. 
Her big success was How Green was My Valley
starring Sian Phillips, Sue Jones-Davies,
Stanley Baker in the seventies. 
Ms Davies gave an interview, recorded,
where she spoke of Morgan's intellect
and presence on the set to reassure
the awestruck younger actors like herself.
We saw her in a clip from Morgan's play
about Lloyd George in which she played the daughter
of the P.M. trying to persuade 
her mother not to be so understanding 
of her husband's infidelities. 
Morgan empathised with young and old. 
She also was an anthropologist
who wrote about and backed the curious
hypothesis of the 'aquatic ape',
which held that humankind diverted from 
the other apes by adaptation to
marine environments. We shed our hair
for streamlining in water when we swam
and walked bipedally or rather waded
to protect our head from splashing feet. 

The fifth is Betty Campbell first head teacher 
from an ethnic family in Wales.  
Born nineteen thirty-four in Tiger Bay
died twenty seventeen not far away.
She managed to get pregnant when at school 
aged seventeen and took A levels as 
a teenage mum. She married plumber Rupert
Campbell when she finished school. They'd had
three children when in nineteen sixty she
enrolled at Cardiff's teacher training college. Then,
in Tiger Bay she got a job at Mount
Stuart Primary and stayed for thirty
years, eventually becoming head.
The school shone as a beacon in the world
of multiculturalism and once
the Prince of Wales enjoyed St David's Day
as Mrs Campbell's guest and when the great
man Nelson Mandela came by, she met
him as a member of the C.R.E.
the race equality commission and
advised her students there was no one more
appropriate to follow than this former
prisoner who danced and sang and thanked
the Welsh and preached forgiveness not revenge. 

As much as this was sermon for the day.
Months later it was national news that Betty
Campbell number five had won and in
a Cardiff square a bust of her unveiled.