IDEAS scrawled on paper fly from Elaine Morgan’s lap in the statue of the dramatist, evolutionary theorist and trailblazing feminist that was unveiled today. 

The bundles of paper are suspended where you imagine her desk would be but are carried away by a wave – a nod to the aquatic ape theory that influenced her scientific writing - as Elaine looks away, satisfied with some thought, a pen pressed to her chin. 

The bursting of ideas, notes and well-crafted arguments flowing from what would be her desk, and which simply cannot be contained by order, represent a writer and thinker who was truly groundbreaking. 

A miner’s daughter she was born in Hopkinstown, near Pontypridd, in 1920, and won a scholarship to Oxford University. Upon arrival and hearing her Valleys accent, it was assumed she was applying for a job as a cleaner. She became a star student, chaired political societies and honed her literary skills. 

Married to Morien, a teacher and Spanish civil war veteran, the couple lived in various locations across England. After graduation Elaine taught with the Workers Educational Association before the couple settled in Wales to raise a family and the young mum launched what would be a successful writing career. 

READ MORE: Dr Elaine Morgan statue unveiled in Mountain Ash on Friday March 18

Her surviving sons Gareth and Morien unveiled the statue in front of a large crowd, in the spring sunshine in Mountain Ash, the Valleys town where Elaine had lived from 1966 until her death, aged 92, in July 2013. 

She was granted the freedom of Rhondda Cynon Taf, in April 2013, of which Gareth said: “Of all the awards she won, it was that recognition from the Valleys, where she had grown up, that meant more to her than anything.” 

She has been described as rooted in her community. Before settling in Mountain Ash the family lived in Abernant, near Aberdare and her sons attended the Welsh medium Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Aberdar. 

Gareth said: “She picked up a fair bit of Welsh somewhere, I don’t know where, when or how, but enough to make polite chit, chat. 

“Both my parents could see the Welsh language would be important for anyone in Wales and made sure we got a good grounding in it.” 

The monument, that from today greets visitors to the local doctors surgery, is only the second statue of a named woman to be erected in Wales and Gareth, 72, said he believes greater recognition of the contribution that women have made would have pleased his mother. 

The sculpture was commissioned following the Hidden Heroines campaign organised by the Monumental Welsh Women group which was behind the Betty Campbell statue, unveiled in Cardiff last September

“I think it would make her smile,” said Gareth in response to what he thinks his mother’s reaction to being immortalised in bronze would be. 

“She wasn’t a person who cared about personal recognition or fame or anything like that but she would be delighted that it represents all the women of Wales, and the whole project by Monumental Welsh Women, to recognise, in this way, the achievements of the women of Wales and to get that recognition for them, is pleasing as much as anything.” 

The National Wales: A close up of the statue of Elaine Morgan.A close up of the statue of Elaine Morgan.

Those piles of paper represent a career dedicated to writing but not confined to any form. 

In the 1950s Elaine began writing plays to help make ends meet, and sold her first television scripts before the family even owned a set. 

Gareth can remember when the family got its first black and white television and settling down to watch dramas scripted by his mother, which in those comparatively early days of television were often broadcast live: “We had to be very quite.” 

Elaine would go on to write the scripts of some of the best-loved dramas in television history – including How Green Was My Valley and The Life and Times of Lloyd George – and collected BAFTA and Writers’ Guild awards. 

But in the 1970s she turned her attention to scientific writing, though in an accessible style, and with the intention of taking on a male-dominated sphere with a new theory of human evolution. 

The National Wales: Some of the crowd that attended the unveiling of the Elaine Morgan statue in Mountain Ash.Some of the crowd that attended the unveiling of the Elaine Morgan statue in Mountain Ash.

Her book The Descent of Woman (1972), argued human evolution should widen its focus beyond the male hunter – females were an equally vital part of the story.  

It was an instant global best-seller. Celebrated in America as a feminist heroine, the book became a key text in the Women’s Liberation movement. 

READ MORE: A brief history of the Women's Liberation Movement in Wales

“The power of the way she approached it was as if the science had been looking at it with one eye closed in terms of human evolution,” said Gareth of his mother’s new found subject matter. 

“By considering the very fact our most primitive ancestors, including women, children and babies, mattered it gave a fully three dimensional insight into what life must have been like and the evolutionary pressures that applied.” 

She published several more books on evolution – including The Aquatic Ape (1982), which again captured global attention; The Scars of Evolution (1990); The Descent of the Child (1994); The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis (1997) and The Naked Darwinist (2008). 

Remaining a vital voice well into her old age, more than a million people viewed her Ted Talk on evolutionary theory given when she was 89 years old. 

READ MORE: 'Beacon of hope’ Betty Campbell monument unveiled in Cardiff

In her 80s Elaine also found a new outlet as a weekly columnist for The Western Mail, and she was again recognised by the critics winning columnist of the year at the Regional Press Awards. 

When, after a series of strokes, she decided to sign off from her column in January 2013 she said she had spent time in hospital and wrote: “I don’t remember much about that time but, at 92, I find there are quite a few things I don’t remember. 

“One thing I keep forgetting to do is retire, so I’m going to put that right as soon as I finish writing this.” 

The National Wales: The Elaine Morgan statue is outside Meddygfa Glan Cynon Surgery in Mountain Ash, Rhondda Cynon Taf. The Elaine Morgan statue is outside Meddygfa Glan Cynon Surgery in Mountain Ash, Rhondda Cynon Taf.

Gareth said the 10 years she spent writing her column in the paper were very important to his mother. 

“I think her later scientific work meant a great deal to her as did her regular column in the Western Mail

“I describe Elaine as a writer in the sense an alcoholic is a drinker, she loved to write and couldn’t leave it alone. 

“Her column in the Western Mail was wonderful for her as there were so many topics she wanted to write about and it allowed her to do that to her heart’s content.” 

Elaine’s eldest son Dylan died in 2011. 

READ MORE: The remarkable life of Cranogwen who broke every convention of the Victorian period

Before today’s unveiling Gareth had only seen a photograph of the statue but had “sneak previews” during the design process. 

“It is an absolutely stunning piece of art in its own right,” said Gareth of sculptor Emma Rodgers’ work. 

Rodgers, whose notable works include Liverpool’s statue of the singer and entertainer Cilla Black, 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 National Wales: Sculptor Emma Rodgers with the statue, and right, Elaine Morgan with her BAFTA Cymru award.Sculptor Emma Rodgers with the statue, and right, Elaine Morgan with her BAFTA Cymru award.

Helen Molyneux, founder of the Monumental Welsh Women group said: “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”. 

The Hidden Heroines campaign organised by Monumental Welsh Women was broadcast on BBC Wales and the other women on the shortlist were Margaret Haig Thomas (Lady Rhondda), Elizabeth Andrews, Sarah Jane Rees (Cranogwen) and Betty Campbell who became the first woman on the list to be honoured with a statue. 

Monumental Welsh Women’s mission is to erect five statues honouring five Welsh women in as many locations around Wales in five years and work is already underway on crafting a statue of Cranogwen that will stand in Llangrannog. 

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