The first statue of a woman in Parliament Square has been unveiled, two years after the campaign to get female representation outside the Palace of Westminster began.
The bronze casting, created by artist Gillian Wearing, was unveiled today and seen by hundreds of women and men who gathered to watch a moment in history.
Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847 to 1929), a suffragist who fought for women’s right to vote in the early twentieth-century, joins 11 male figures in the square, including Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
Fawcett was a Governor at Bedford College and lends her name to the College’s Fawcett Lecture, recognising the contributions she made to improve women’s opportunities in higher education. In 1875, she was a co-founder of Newnham Hall (later College), Cambridge.
She was also the aunt of Bedford College alumna Dr. Louisa Garrett Anderson, CBE, (1973 to 1943) – a medical pioneer who in 1910 made up a delegation with her mother and English philosopher, Alfred Caldecott, for women to have the vote, and were allowed to put forward the case to the Prime Minister.
The unveiling on Tuesday came seven months after the statue, which features a 50-year-old Fawcett holding a banner reading ‘Courage calls to courage everywhere’, first went into production.
The statue was brought about thanks to an online petition launched by Caroline Criado Perez, who noticed there were no statues of women in Parliament Square during a run. After receiving thousands of signatures, Westminster council and the mayor of London’s office confirmed in September 2017 that the statue would be installed to mark the 2018 centenary of women’s suffrage in Britain.
Speaking before the unveiling, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: ‘When you think of the great people in Parliament Square and when you realise that not one of them is a woman, it sort of begs the question, are we saying there haven’t been incredible women in the past? That our country hasn’t been built on the back of great women?’
Commenting on the fact that the whole process, from petition to project manager, has been driven solely by women, Khan stated:
‘That should make us all incredibly proud. So the questions can’t be asked now: are there any talented women sculptors? Are there any talented women project managers? Are there any talented women with ideas? We have thrown those questions out the window. Londoners are going to love it. They will be blown away.’