When she arrived to study at Oxford University, Elaine Morgan was mistaken for a housekeeper because of her broad South Wales Valleys accent.
But she went on to become a screenwriter, evolutionary theorist and pioneering feminist, and on Friday a statue of the Welsh Renaissance woman was unveiled in the town of Mountain Ash, where she attempted to change the world from her office.
The memorial is just the second statue of a real named woman to be placed in an outdoor space in Wales and comes six months after the first – to pioneering Wales headmistress Betty Campbell – was unveiled in Cardiff.
A group called Monumental Welsh Womenwhich aims to erect five statues honoring women in five Welsh sites within five years, is behind the two statues.
Born in 1920 to a miner’s family in Hopkinstown, Rhondda Cynon Taf, Morgan went on to win a scholarship to Oxford. After graduating, she returned to South Wales where she taught school, raised three sons and started writing plays to make ends meet. Her early screenplays were accepted before she even got a TV set and she is best known for the 1970s series How Green Was My Valley.
She challenged accepted theories of human evolution, arguing in her book The Descent of Woman that there had been too much focus on the male hunter and that women were an equally vital part of history.
The book, published 50 years ago, was a worldwide bestseller and became a key text in the women’s liberation movement. Despite its fame, it has never abandoned its hilly roots and its bronze statue, shaped by the sculptor Emma Rodgerswas unveiled in front of a doctor’s office near his family home.
Helen Molyneux, Founder of Monumental Welsh Women, said: “Our mission is to celebrate the ambition and success of women by commemorating the achievements of great Welsh women – and to inspire the next generation of great Welsh women.
“Elaine was a wonderful playwright and feminist icon, and we are thrilled to be able to immortalize her accomplishments so that she will be remembered in her hometown and beyond for years to come. We hope her statue will serve as a inspiration to the girls – and boys – of Mountain Ash and all who will see it.
Morgan was 92 when she died in 2013 and her son, Gareth Morgan, said she would have been delighted to see the achievements of Welsh women celebrated through the statue campaign.
He said: “Elaine’s work has helped inspire women around the world and I have seen messages from women around the world who have written to her thanking her for changing their lives.
“Some had been inspired to forge a career in science, while others took up writing or some other lifelong ambition after reading her books, and they all expressed how much she had changed their outlook. women, science and themselves.
“Elaine was called an activist for women’s equality, but secretly I think she believed in the superiority of women.”