Calls for statue to honour Edinburgh philosopher Mary Shepherd

Lady Mary Shepherd wrote about causation and religion
Lady Mary Shepherd wrote about causation and religion
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A campaign to erect a statue of Scotland’s most famous female philosopher has been launched by an Edinburgh University Student.

Viktoria Matejova, a student and activist, is calling on Edinburgh City Council to recognise the contribution of women to philosophy and honour theorist Mary Shepherd.

Shepherd was a great thinker of her day who engaged in debate with David Hume and wrote primarily about causation and religion.

Viktoria, 21, was inspired to launch her campaign after achieving success in establishing the Mary Shepherd Philosophy Conference, which took place in January.

She said: “We were looking for a name for our annual conference on feminist philosophy when I first heard about Mary Shepherd. Since discovering her then, I began to notice that there was very little 
awareness of her. Walking down the Royal Mile all you see is statues of male philosophers and I started to think about how Mary Shepherd and other female philosophers need better representation.”

Viktoria launched her petition a few weeks ago, expecting to obtain just a few signatures, but has been overwhelmed by the response.

However, not all the feedback has been positive and Viktoria said: “It can seem a bit backwards, it’s still very controversial for some people to say that a woman might have been important in philosophy.

“I think it’s important to have a statue though, as they are a visual representation of how and who we choose to remember. I think if I could have seen statues of female philosophers on my first day of university, I would have felt less excluded from the philosophy world.”

Viktoria hopes that funding for the statue will come from one of Edinburgh’s many historical societies, but stressed that at this stage, permission was key.

She added: “I’m not imagining a huge, grand statue like David Hume’s. It would maybe be nice to get a female sculptor to commission something a bit more abstract and not too expensive. We really just need to know we can go ahead before we start any fundraising.”

Viktoria is being aided in her campaign by the Diversity Reading List and Minorities and Philosophy UK (MAP UK) – an organisation promoting equality and diversity in philosophy.

A spokesperson said: “We are fully in support of the student-led campaign to erect a statue of Mary Shepherd in Edinburgh. Too often have hugely influential, but socially marginalised figures in history been ignored in favour of ‘great men’. This statue would be a perfect start to publicly changing that narrative in philosophy.”

To sign the petition for a statue for Mary Shepherd, please visit: https://www.change.org/p/the-city-of-edinburgh-council-build-a-statue-of-lady-mary-shepherd-in-edinburgh