We are proud to announce that the Mary Clarke Statue Appeal now has its first Child
Ambassador. She is River Isaac who is 8 years old and in year four at Balfour Primary School in Brighton.
We first came across River during lockdown at the height of the pandemic, when she and her mother Paula contacted our chosen sculptor Denise Dutton to ask if she could help with an online art lesson about the proposed sculpture. River had read an article about Mary Clarke during the Christmas holidays and wanted to know more about her. This led to an online interview with Denise Dutton and Jean Calder led by River’s class teacher Nick Huxley which was played to the class, all of whom were working from home. River also put together a PowerPoint presentation for the class.
River’s interest in the suffragettes is not new. Two years ago, River attended a class trip to Preston Manor at which the children were encouraged to dress up as Victorian or Edwardian servants. River dressed as a suffragette rather than a maidservant because she wanted to highlight the importance of women’s struggle to vote.
When the maquette of Mary was first displayed at the Jubilee Library, River was amongst the first to view it, along with her mother Paula and sisters Esther and Kitty. Over the summer, River and her family supported fundraising events the Appeal held in the Pavilion Gardens – even in pouring rain.
Jean Calder, who is the Appeal’s Chair of Trustees, said: “River has demonstrated her ability to influence others for the good. She has a thirst for knowledge, a love of outdoor activities and, young as she is, a track record of supporting local charities. We have been struck by her passion for women’s rights and equality, her enthusiasm to learn about the suffrage struggle and her keenness to inform others about it. This is why we asked her to be our first Child Ambassador. We are so glad she agreed.”
River says she has been inspired by the design of the statue, which, amongst other things, has a lamp placed at Mary’s feet and quotes local suffragette leader Isabella McKeown’s instruction to the grief-stricken women at Mary’s 1911 memorial service in the Royal Pavilion “not to mourn” but to “take the torch from her and light the darkness…”.
River said: “I want to be a part of the Appeal. Mary Clarke was the first suffragette so brave that she died for women’s right to vote. I think she deserves a statue to remember her. I want to pick up the lamp depicted in the statue, that Mary has laid down. I want to take it up and continue girls’ and women’s fight for equality.”
The trustees hope River’s appointment will encourage others to take up this role. They hope to appoint ambassadors in as many schools as possible, to raise awareness of Mary Clarke and the local suffragette movement, encourage related educational activities and spark discussion about women’s rights and democracy.