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Green Light For Millicent Fawcett Statue In Parliament Square

Green Light For Millicent Fawcett Statue In Parliament Square

  • Mayor of London’s planning application given the go-ahead by Westminster City Council
  • Work will begin on historic statue later this year, with a model of the monument unveiled on 19 September
  • The statue will be both the first statue of a woman and the first created by a woman to stand within Parliament Square

Plans for a statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, the first-ever monument of a woman to stand within the iconic central London location, have been given the go-ahead. This follows a successful planning application from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan to Westminster City Council.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and the Mayor are working to ensure that the statue will be unveiled for the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the vote, and was introduced thanks to the campaigning of Fawcett and other suffragists and suffragettes.

Following Caroline Criado-Perez’s campaign for a statue of a woman in Parliament Square, the Mayor announced Turner Prize-winning Gillian Wearing as the artist who will take the landmark project forward, making it the first statue created by a woman to be erected in the square.

Gillian Wearing unveiled a model of the monument on 19 September, which will be a contemporary depiction of Millicent Fawcett at the age of 50, the year the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies was founded. The statue will portray Fawcett holding a placard which reads ‘courage calls to courage everywhere’ – taken from a speech she gave after the death of Suffragette, Emily Wilding Davidson, at the Epsom Derby. Loaned by the Fawcett Society, an original brooch which was presented to Fawcett will be scanned and cast in bronze to feature as part of the monument.

The entire statue will be cast in bronze, using 21st century technology, and will complement the heritage of the iconic square. It will also acknowledge the contributions of the many other supporters involved in the struggle for universal suffrage by including the names of people who helped lead the campaign along the statue's plinth.

Throughout the creation of the statue, Gillian will work with an ensemble of historians, academics and artists to ensure the monument properly reflects the suffrage movement and Millicent Fawcett’s leadership and character. The monument will join the 11 statues already in Parliament Square including Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill.

Gillian was selected as the artist following a rigorous process undertaken by the Suffrage Statue Commission, which included gallery directors, curators, cultural leaders and campaigners, chaired by Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, Justine Simons.

Earlier this year, the Government announced that the statue would be funded as part of a £5 million fund to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage. This was part of a wider package of funding for women’s issues in the Budget, including £5 million to support returners back to work after time spent caring, and £20 million to tackle domestic violence and abuse. 

Caroline Criado-Perez launched her campaign for a statue in Parliament Square in May 2016, with a change.org petition which was signed by almost 85,000 people. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and the Mayor backed the campaign, and have worked alongside other campaigners and civil society groups to ensure the statue can be located in Parliament Square. The statue of is co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s art programme for the First World War centenary.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “As a proud feminist at City Hall, I have given Caroline’s inspired campaign my full support and am delighted that we have been given the go-ahead to bring the first ever statue of a woman to the centre of British democracy in Parliament Square – something which is long overdue. Next year marks a century since the start of women’s suffrage in the UK - one of our country’s most pivotal moments – and our mission now is to ensure that we can begin the centenary celebrations with the unveiling of this landmark piece.

“This will be one of the most momentous and significant statues of our time and I know that Gillian Wearing’s exceptional talent and unique insight will do great justice to the movement and Millicent Fawcett’s legacy. We want this statue to depict the strength and determination of the women who dedicated their lives to the fight for women’s suffrage and to inspire many generations to come – and I know Gillian’s creation will do just that.”

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Aged just 22 Millicent Fawcett gave her first speech on women’s suffrage and then campaigned relentlessly for nearly 50 years before the vote was finally given to women.”  

“I am proud that this beautifully designed statue of Fawcett in Parliament Square will inspire a new generation to champion her struggle for equality and women’s rights.”

Artist, Gillian Wearing, said: “I am really delighted that planning has been granted, now Millicent Fawcett's statue can stand as an equal amongst male statues in Parliament Square.”

Writer and activist, Caroline Criado-Perez, said: “I’m thrilled that we have been given the go ahead to install not only the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square, but also the first statue created by a woman. Let her stand facing Parliament for years to come reminding us all that “Courage calls to courage everywhere.”

Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, said: “14-18 NOW is delighted to commission this new work by Gillian Wearing, which is a powerful way to remember the work of Millicent Fawcett and this landmark moment in history. A hundred years ago, during the First World War, the role of women changed dramatically; this new sculpture is a way to reflect upon the suffrage movement and the huge impact it has had on our lives.”

Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries and Chair of the Suffrage Statue Commission, said: “I’m delighted that we have been given the green light to bring this important statue to life. One hundred years ago women advocated, campaigned and fought bravely against a system that denied them their fundamental democratic rights. Honouring their struggle in Parliament Square could not be more appropriate.

“Gillian has produced a brilliant and thoughtful contemporary work, which also fits within the traditional context of Parliament Square. The sculpture will celebrate the leadership of one woman, while recognising the diversity and number of women who made up the suffrage movement. With Caroline’s ambition and Gillian’s creativity, as well as the overwhelming support we’ve had from the public, the statue will be a fantastic celebration of these inspirational women.”

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society, said: “Putting a statue of a woman in Parliament Square is long overdue but it is absolutely right that it is Millicent Fawcett who is being commemorated.  She made it her lifetime's work to secure votes for women. 

"We need statues of women in all our town squares and major cities. Who we commemorate and celebrate says a great deal about who and what we value.  Monuments of women are largely invisible from our public spaces. This has to change."