The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has recently announced plans for a statue of Millicent Fawcett to appear in Parliament Square.
The statue is being made by Gillian Wearing, an award winning artist who claims she is ‘delighted that planning has been granted‘- and so are we. But who was Fawcett and why is this so important?
Millicent Fawcett was a leading lady of the suffragette movement in the early 1900s, which was campaigning tirelessly for women to be granted the right to vote. Despite distancing herself from the radical actions of Emmeline Pankhurst – who was known for her arson and vandalism, which landed her in prison a number of times- she lead the NUWSS (National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies), believing violence could only harm their chances at getting the vote, thus leading a far more moderate campaign. Not only did she participate in the movement this way, but she also spoke at various women’s colleges and wrote passionate articles about their education, leading to her being remembered as a hero in history and of the early feminist movement.
This is an opportunity to celebrate history, to raise up the brave and powerful women of the past and thank them for building the foundations of a movement that we continued to develop and expand in to vital intersections over the next hundred years.
But why does this matter so much? Why can’t the government be spending money on more important things like reducing homelessness and poverty? Why do we need another statue to line our streets? The answer is simple. Because Fawcett will be the first ever woman to appear in Parliament Square and her statue will be the first to have ever been designed by a woman too.This is an opportunity to celebrate history, to raise up the brave and powerful women of the past and thank them for building the foundations of a movement that we continued to develop and expand in to vital intersections over the next hundred years. Because without the commendable actions of the Pankhursts’ or Fawcett, I would not be able to go to my nearest polling station during the next election and allow my voice to be heard. Because floating in the dull sea of thousands of years of history, we only see men. Surely women deserve to be studied, to be written in to essays and widely read about, to be admired by an eleven year old girl just starting serious history classes, or to act as an inspiration to those young girls who want to make a change and don’t know how.
We spend all of our time celebrating men in history, even those who have done horrific things, so why is it so controversial to give women someone to celebrate too?