Statue to honour writer and evolutionary theorist Elaine Morgan to be unveiled in Mountain Ash

Dr Elaine Morgan is celebrated worldwide as a feminist heroine and an inspiration for the Women’s Liberation movement

A statue to honour writer, evolutionary theorist and feminist Elaine Morgan will be unveiled in Mountain Ash later this week.

Following a campaign by the Monumental Welsh Women group, it will be the second statue of a named, non-fictionalised woman to be erected in an outdoor public space in Wales, following the Betty Campbell monument in Cardiff in September 2021. 

Monumental Welsh Women aims to erect five statues honouring Welsh women in different locations around Wales within in five years.

The others are Margaret Haig Thomas (Lady Rhondda), Elizabeth Andrews, Sarah Jane Rees (Cranogwen) and Betty Campbell.

Who was Elaine Morgan?

Dr Elaine Morgan was an icon for women across the world well into her later life

Elaine Morgan excelled in both the arts and science and became a top TV writer, a feminist icon, and a ground-breaking evolutionary theorist.

In a career spanning 30 years, she won a host of awards and scripted some of the best-loved dramas in television history, including How Green Was My Valley and The Life and Times of Lloyd George.

Born into a poor mining family in the village of Hopkinstown, to the west of Pontypridd, she won a scholarship to Oxford University, but never strayed from her Valleys roots.

Upon arrival in Oxford, it was assumed she was applying for a job as a cleaner due to her accent, but Elaine became a star student, chairing political societies and honing her literary skills.

Married with three sons by the 1950s, she began writing plays and as one of the first women to make an impact in the male-dominated world of the small screen, her first television scripts were accepted before she even owned a TV set. 

In the 1970s, she turned her attention to science, introducing a new theory of human evolution. In her book The Descent of Woman (1972), she argued human evolution should widen its focus beyond the male hunter. 

The Descent of Woman was a worldwide best-seller and led Morgan to be celebrated in America as a feminist heroine with the book becoming a key text in the Women’s Liberation movement. 

Remaining a respected voice to the end of her life, more than a million people viewed her TedTalk on evolutionary theory presented when she was 89 years old. 

In 2009, she was appointed OBE and elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

'An incredible mind but also a real warmth and nurturing spirit'

Emma Rodgers was selected from a shortlist of internationally renowned female sculptors

The statue of Dr Morgan has been designed and created by sculptor Emma Rodgers, whose notable works include Liverpool’s statue of Cilla Black.

Ms Rodgers, who was selected from a shortlist of internationally renowned female sculptors, said: “I feel very privileged to be creating one of the first-named female sculptures in Wales and incredibly pleased that it is of such an inspirational woman. 

“Elaine Morgan not only had an incredible mind but also a real warmth and nurturing spirit.”

The statue will be revealed in a special ceremony outside Meddygfa Glan Cynon Surgery in Mountain Ash, Rhondda Cynon Taf on Friday, March 18. 

Helen Molyneux, founder of the Monumental Welsh Women group, said: “Our Mission is to celebrate female ambition and success by commemorating the achievements of great Welsh Women - and to inspire the next generation of great Welsh women. 

“We are delighted to be able to announce the commissioning of our project’s second statue, of Elaine Morgan – during Women’s History Month and in the 50th year anniversary of the publication of Decent of Woman (1972) and 40th year of The Aquatic Ape (1982).

“Elaine was a wonderful dramatist and feminist icon, and we are thrilled to be able to immortalise her achievements so that she will be remembered in her hometown and beyond for years to come. She was an inspirational woman, and we hope her statue will act as an inspiration to the girls – and boys – of Mountain Ash and everyone who sees her.”

Unveiled last year, the statue of Betty Campbell in Cardiff was the first non-fictionalised female statue in Wales Credit: Ben Birchall/PA

Gareth Morgan, Elaine’s son, said: “I know Elaine would have been delighted with the work of the Monumental Welsh Women statue campaign, not for the recognition of her own achievements but in celebrating the lives of the many extraordinary women that Wales has produced. 

“Elaine’s work has helped to inspire women everywhere and I have seen messages to her from women all over the world who wrote to thank her for changing their lives. 

“Some had been inspired to forge a career in science, while others took up writing or some other long held ambition after reading her books, and they all expressed how she had changed their view of women, of science and of themselves.”