International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrates the political, social, economic and cultural achievements of women and is 110 years old on March 8th. It began in the USA in 1909 as National Women’s Day, in response to a campaign for better pay, shorter hours and voting rights. At an international conference for working women in Copenhagen, Clara Zetkin, a political activist, suggested making it international and from that time it was marked in different countries around the world (mainly in Europe). It wasn’t until 1975 that the United Nations made it official and for each year there’s a different theme. In 2021 the theme is #ChooseToChallenge : to call out gender bias and inequality.
There are so many inspirational women who have made history and continue to do so and this young writer with Bath connections is nothing short of remarkable.
Mary Shelley (1797 -1851)
‘I do not want women to have power over men, but over themselves.’
The daughter of feminist writer and activist Mary Wollstonecraft and radical William Godwin is best known for two aspects of her life: eloping with the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley and writing ‘Frankenstein’ when she was still in her teens. ‘Frankenstein’ or ‘The Modern Prometheus’ is an astonishing work of structural and philosophical complexity. Combining elements of a sci-fi thriller and Gothic horror story, it raises a range of moral and ethical issues. As most people know, the impetus came from a competition within Shelley’s family and friends, who included the poet Lord Byron, to create a ghost story. At the time they were staying at the atmospheric Villa Diodati on the shores of Lake Geneva and trying to amuse themselves during a stormy week. Mary began her story in 1816 and completed the final draft in Bath two years later when she was still only 21. The house where she lived stood next to the Pump Rooms but has now been demolished, though her work lives on. ‘Frankenstein’ continues to be published over two hundred years later and interpretations of the story have been a feature of the stage and screen for almost a century. This year a ‘Frankenstein museum will open in Bath. Probably there will be more than a nod to the ghoulish elements of the tale but hopefully Mary’s prodigious talent will be given room to shine through.
Mary Shelley wrote, ‘The beginning is always today.’ With that in mind, there’s just SIX weeks until the 2021 Bath Short Story Award closes on Monday, April 19th. Stories of up to 2200 words on any subject or genre are welcome. The 1st prize is £1200 and the shortlist judge is Norah Perkins of Curtis Brown. Be inspired and good luck!