Monumental Woman: A Beacon of Hope

This is the monument to Wales’ first black head teacher, Betty Campbell. It is also the first named statue of a woman in Wales. On 29th September, in Cardiff’s Central Square, a large crowd gathered to celebrate this momentous occasion, made possible by the dedicated women behind the organisation Monumental Welsh  Women. Since 2016, they have been campaigning for the achievements of women in Wales to be recognized, for inspirational women to be immortalised, commemorated and celebrated with public statues.

As part of Arts Council Wales Cynefin project, the children from Bryn primary school in Blackwood, were fortunate to be able to speak to the creator of the monument, Eve Shepherd.

On her website, Eve talks about the commission:

I have had the total privilege and honour to create a monument which is a celebration of diversity. I hope this sculpture is a fitting tribute to Cardiff and Tiger Bay, the richly diverse community in which Betty grew up in and loved. I aimed to continue through this monument, the education in which Betty felt so passionately about, especially black education…I hoped to pay homage to Betty, this precious and formidable woman, to allow her legacy and memory to live on.

Betty Campbell’s head and shoulders form a canopy, beneath which are ten young children. Eve Shepherd explained that she was inspired by the concept of mother trees within woodlands.

“… I thought that was like Betty – she reminds me of a mother tree to her community. She protected her community, her children, her school. She was so strongly connected, so respected and she educated and she gave parts of herself for the good of the community.”

The children of Bryn Primary School were inspired by Betty’s story of determination to overcome the odds stacked against her in reaching her goals, the “invisible restrictions that tried to keep Betty Campbell small”. (BBC journalist Felicity Evans.)

Born into a poor household in Butetown, Betty won a scholarship to a girl’s school in Cardiff. She later trained as a teacher, eventually becoming headteacher of Mount Stuart Primary School in Butetown.

Photo by Rob Browne.

Here you can see Betty Campbell as a seven-year-old reading a quote from herself aged 30, as her great-granddaughter Estelle looks over her shoulder. There are also some portraits from current pupils at Mount Stuart Primary School, where Mrs Campbell was headteacher. 

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