A North East woman, described as ‘the first English feminist’, will be officially recognised this International Women’s Day, with a commemorative plaque dedicated to her outside Newcastle Cathedral.
Women will be celebrated in our cathedrals today to mark International Women’s Day 2023
Mary Astell was born in Newcastle in 1666, a writer, poet, and advocate of equal educational opportunities for girls. She lived in the North East until her twenties, when she moved to London and established a charity school in Chelsea.
Following a collaboration between Newcastle City Council, Newcastle Cathedral, and academics from Northumbria University, Mary’s life will be commemorated with a plaque unveiled by both the Lord Mayor and the Acting Dean of Newcastle, Jane Hedges today – International Women’s Day.
It is one of a number of events in the cathedral honouring and remembering trailblazing women of Newcastle including Women Behind the Stones’ tours and ‘Working with Women’ event that will celebrate the organisations and individuals in the region who support and promote the rights and lives of women today.
These will include representatives from schools, heritage, professional services and volunteer-led groups, including the Mary Astell Academy, The Girl’s Network, Workie Ticket Theatre Company, Laing Art Gallery, Wearside Women in Need, and The Common Room. University research projects on everything from women’s engineering projects to liberation magazines will also be showcased.
The afternoon will include a live performance from local band, Howay the Lasses.
Northumbria University Postgraduate Researcher Daisy Winter has helped coordinate the event and said:
“We hope this showcase will raise awareness of vital projects and organisations that further the interests of women. This is entirely in keeping with the extraordinary work of Mary Astell, who published innovative writings arguing that women were just as rational and intelligent as men and lobbied both for the need to widen women’s access to education and proposed solutions to the problems many women faced in marriage.”
The commemoration of Mary is the latest in a number of joint projects between Northumbria University and Newcastle Cathedral, with the two organisations forging strong links in recent years.
Bradford Cathedral has commissioned a special piece of music for International Women’s Day today which will be premiered today at the cathedral’s weekly organ recital which has been themed around female composers since the start of the year.
The new piece was written by Sarah MacDonald and will be performed by today’s week’s organist, Imogen Morgan from St Mary’s Episcopal Cathedral in Edinburgh.
The composition is entitled Duet, Aria & Fughetta on Bradford and has been written for the Wingfield Organ, a mock-Tudor instrument. The piece is based on a 19th Century hymn tune by Haydn called Bradford.
Composer, Sarah MacDonald said of the piece:
“It’s very tonal. It’s pastiche. I hope they will hear the tune of the hymn, and its two-part invention. I hope by the end they’ll think that’s a nice little hymn tune by Haydn – we should sing it!”
Organist, Imogen Morgan said:
“I am very excited to be premiering this new composition! Sarah has skilfully worked the hymn tune ‘Bradford’ into three distinct movements in the form of an early keyboard suite. The piece is perfectly paired to the historic Wingfield organ, and I am looking forward to its first performance.”
Graham Thorpe, Acting Director of Music at Bradford Cathedral, said:
“I’m really looking forward to hearing Sarah’s new piece, and pumping the bellows of the Wingfield Organ for it!
“It’s really special to have new music played on such an important historical instrument, a perfect way to celebrate International Women’s Day 2023. I would encourage everyone to come!”
For more information on the organ recital season – and to read interviews with Sarah MacDonald and Imogen Morgan – please visit our organ recitals page.