MILLICENT FAWCETT STATUE in PARLIAMENT SQUARE

How lucky to be a woman in twenty first century. Sure we still don’t get paid the same and are still subject to unwanted advances but those are moving in the right direction. Most important of all we have the vote, we have a voice. So it was highlight to be being present when the Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square was unveiled.  Scarlett from Diary of a Londoness and I decided that the unveiling of the first statue of a woman and by a woman, one hundred years after women got the vote, in Parliament Square was an occasion not to be missed.  Invited guests got the places nearest to the statue meaning that we were quite a way back.

Unveiling Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square

That we were gathered together to witness the unveiling of the Gillian Wearing statue was down to one woman.  Caroline Criado Perez was jogging through Parliament Square one day and wondered who the people were on the plinths and then realised that they were all men, she started the campaign and here we all were.  She made a speech at the ceremony pointing out that of all the public statues in the UK there are more of men called John than there are of women.  The atmosphere in Parliament Square was fantastic with lots of people dressed up for the occasion.  This lady was dressed as a Suffragist in honour of her grandmother who had chained herself to railings of the Houses of Parliament as part of the campaign to win Votes for Women.

Suffragist granddaughter Parliament Square

Millicent Fawcett was born in Suffolk a fact that was being celebrated by Caroline Stone, a councillor for the Suffolk town of Woodbridge.

Millicent Fawcett Suffolk Women Lead the Way banner
Later in the week I had a meeting just round the corner from Parliament Square and so I popped in to take a closer look.  The detail on the Gillian Wearing statue is amazing, the surface of the bronze looks like tweed.  Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere, are words taken from a speech that Millicent Fawcett made in the wake of the death of the suffragette Emily Wilding Davidson who threw herself under the King’s horse at the Derby.  Up close you can see that the words would have been stitched onto the banner.

Millicent Fawcett Statue in Parliament Square by Gillian Wearing

 WHO WAS MILLICENT FAWCETT AND WHY DOES SHE DESERVE A STATUE IN PARLIMENT SQUARE?

Millicent Fawcett was a Suffragist who campaigned for Votes for Women.  Surely that should be Suffragette?  No, both Suffragists and Suffragettes campaigned for women to have the vote but they had very different ways of going about it.  Suffragists believed in peaceful protest and lobbying whilst Suffragettes opted for direct action including violence.  Millicent was President of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies from 1897-1914, she made her first public speech in favour of women having the vote when she was only 22.  When she wasn’t campaigning for women to have the vote, she managed to co-found Newnham College at Cambridge.

Her parents must have been quite something because they produced two extraordinary daughters.  Whilst Millicent was at the forefront of the Suffragist campaign and forming ground breaking colleges at Cambridge, her sister, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, was busy becoming the first woman in Britain to qualify as a physician and surgeon.  She also founded a hospital to treat women, where the teens were born fifteen years ago this week: then, it was at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital.

WHICH MEN HAVE STATUES IN PARLIAMENT SQUARE?

Lloyd George statue Parliament Square

Millicent Fawcett is the twelfth person to have a statue in Parliament Square. The other eleven are all men, there are eight Prime Ministers, two Presidents and one Independence leader but who are they? I confess that I could not have named them all before last week

WINSTON CHURCHILL

This is probably the statue that most people would know stands in Parliament Square. Winston Churchill was Prime Minster twice between 1940-45 and 1951-55. He was the leader who saw the UK through the dark years of the Second World War.

DAVID LLOYD GEORGE

Another wartime Prime Minister this time the First World War, David Lloyd George was Prime Minister from 1916 to 1922. As befits his Welsh origins he stands on a plinth of Welsh slate.

JAN SMUTS

Another Prime Minster but this time of South Africa 1919-1924 and again 1939-48. He was the only man to sign the peace treaties that ended both the First and Second World Wars.

3rd VISCOUNT PALMERSTON

Palmerston started his political career as a Tory but defected to the Whigs. He served three terms as Foreign Secretary, did a stint as Home Secretary and became the first Prime Minister the newly formed Liberal Party in 1958, a post he held for less than a year.

14th EARL OF DERBY

The Earl of Derby was Prime Minister no fewer than three times, one of only four British Prime Ministers to have had three or more separate stints in the job. Well they were all really, really short stints the first in 1852 was just ten months, in 1858 he managed fourteen months and in 1866 he lasted for twenty two months. Why does such a short lived Prime Minister deserve a statue? It was he who steered the 1867 Reform Act through Parliament which gave the urban working class male the vote for the first time in England and Wales.

BENJAMIN DISRAELI

Victorian history loomed large over my school days and the battles between Disraeli and Gladstone featured prominently. Disraeli was Prime Minister twice. His first stint was very short just ten months in 1868 but his second occupation of 10 Downing Street lasted much longer 1874-1880. When he wasn’t busy running the country Disraeli was a sucessful novelist.

SIR ROBERT PEEL

Another Prime Minster with two stays at 10 Downing Street. The first was a mere five months when William IV was on the throne, fast forward six years 1841-1846 and he was back again but by this time Victoria was Queen. When he was Home Secretary he established the Metropolitan Police hence their nickname of Bobbies.

GEORGE CANNING

George Canning is the Lady Jane Grey of politics, he holds the record for the shortest period in office of any British Prime Minister at 119 days. Other career highlights included getting into such a knotty political scrap with Lord Castlereagh over the deployment of troops (Canning had promised them to the Netherlands but Castlreagh sent them to Portugal) that the two fought a duel on Putney Heath complete with pistols.

ABRAHAM LINCOLN

Abraham Lincoln was President of the United States of American 1861-1865, a stint that ended with his assassination. He held office at the height of the Civil War and is the man credited with abolishing slavery in America. This statue is a replica of one in Chicago and was a gift of the American ambassador to the Court of St James.

NELSON MANDELA

Imprisoned for 27 years for his part in the struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, when he emerged from jail he led the peaceful movement to finally end white rule and became President of South Africa 1994-99.

MAHATMA GANDHI

Gandhi led the Indian Independence movement, he deployed non-violent acts of civil disobedience that led eventually to the British leaving India.

So much for the men?  If there was to be another statue in Parliament Square who would you like to see atop the plinth and why?

Over the road in the House of Parliament, an artwork has been installed to celebrate women getting the vote: to see my picture of New Dawn click here.

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41 Comments

  1. April 29, 2018 / 12:16 am

    It’s good to see the centenary being properly celebrated. The ‘tweed’ detailing is incredibly realistic!

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 29, 2018 / 10:25 am

      A suitably stunning statue to mark the occasion

  2. April 29, 2018 / 12:31 am

    How fantastic that you were there to see all the proceedings and unveiling. How privileged we are now… thanks to those woman. I had an painting assignment which included powerful women for the past and Millicent Fawcett was one of the chosen women. I had Belva Ann Lockwood for my project… another amazing woman!
    What incredible all these woman were.
    Great to see the fine detail on the statue too 😀

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 29, 2018 / 9:59 am

      Belva Ann Lockwood another amazing woman but sadly equal pay still some way off

  3. April 29, 2018 / 6:40 am

    It’s odd, I have queued up to get into Parliament many a time and had never noticed that there were no statues of women so this goes a small way to highlighting a historical wrong. The statue does indeed look very detailed. #mysundayphoto

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 29, 2018 / 10:29 am

      I admit that I would have struggled to name all of the other eleven statues in a pub quiz before now!

  4. April 29, 2018 / 6:50 am

    How amazing to be there when the statue was unveiled! It looks amazing too. I will definitely go and have a look next time I’m in London.

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 29, 2018 / 10:30 am

      She had quite a crowd round her when I revisited

  5. April 29, 2018 / 7:01 am

    What an amazing moment. I’m pleased to see it for a number of reasons – not least as a proud Suffolk girl myself. I’m definitely going to take Freya to see it. #MySundayPhoto

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 29, 2018 / 10:31 am

      I know I became East Anglian, rather than Norfolk for the day ….. after all I do have cousins in Suffolk!

  6. April 29, 2018 / 9:01 am

    What a great moment to capture, I look forward to taking my daughters to see it.

    Have a good Sunday.

    Thank you for linking up to #MySundayPhoto

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 29, 2018 / 10:31 am

      It was an amazing experience

  7. April 29, 2018 / 9:12 am

    Looks amazing – am hoping to see it soon.

  8. April 29, 2018 / 12:37 pm

    Thanks for the info on suffragist movement. I had never heard of it or Millicent. Women like Millicent changed the world.

    • Catherine
      Author
      April 29, 2018 / 1:14 pm

      They did, thank goodness

  9. April 29, 2018 / 2:37 pm

    What a fabulous statue. Such a fascinating history too. So important to commemorate these occasions.

  10. April 29, 2018 / 7:10 pm

    I am looking forward to taking my 13 year old daughter to see it. I am amazed at how detailed it is, just lovely! 🙂 #sundayphoto

  11. May 1, 2018 / 10:06 am

    lovely statue! #citytripping

  12. May 1, 2018 / 7:26 pm

    How fantastic to have been there at the unveiling – and finally to have a woman in Parliament square. I did wander round once and wonder what a few of the prime ministers had done to deserve their spot… although admittedly some of the lack is in my knowledge rather than their achievements. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 1, 2018 / 7:50 pm

      Fighting a duel on Putney Heath is plainly worthy of a Plinth!

  13. May 1, 2018 / 7:32 pm

    I watched the unveiling on CNN the other day! Congrats to the women of England! It’s about time a woman had a statue on Parliament Square! #CityTripping

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 1, 2018 / 7:51 pm

      Did you spot us in the crowd …. we waved at you especially 😉

  14. May 4, 2018 / 12:39 pm

    I nearly went to this and now regret not going. Great pictures. About darn time too! #culturedkids

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 4, 2018 / 4:17 pm

      I’m really glad we went it was a brilliant experience

  15. May 4, 2018 / 2:25 pm

    I love the texture of the skirt, and the fact the artist is female! Great to be their for the unveiling. #citytripping

  16. Clare Thomson
    May 10, 2018 / 3:45 pm

    What a great read, Catherine. How thrilling that you were there to see the unveiling of this statue. And good for Caroline Criado Perez for doing something about the appalling lack of statues of women here in the first place. Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  17. katherinefenech2017
    May 10, 2018 / 6:33 pm

    I’d never heard of suffragists before, so that’s something new to me. Peaceful protest is definitely a good way to go, especially when you’re a minority that people look down on. I’m so glad that Millicent has been immortalised in a statue! #FarawayFiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 10, 2018 / 10:18 pm

      and with a rather fine statue too!

  18. May 10, 2018 / 10:14 pm

    Another lovely post! I’ve been watching Victoria, so immediately recognized Sir Robert Peel, or course I recognize many of the others as well. Surprised to see that Abraham Lincoln is there… Was just talking this morning about strong women and the importance of recognizing them. #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 10, 2018 / 10:19 pm

      Abraham Lincoln was a gift, so I suppose it had to go somewhere prominent!

  19. May 11, 2018 / 10:35 am

    Great, educational post – when I visited the houses of parliament last summer my stepdaughter and I picked up a ‘Votes for Women’ badge each! #FarawayFiles

  20. May 11, 2018 / 6:34 pm

    I’m so glad she is finally being recognised. I always thought she was unfairly overlooked in favour of the suffragettes #farawayfiles

  21. Beth
    May 12, 2018 / 4:25 pm

    Thanks for the lowdown! I admit as an American at being pleased to see Lincoln, as he is worthy of any recognition due to his decisions and words spoken during his presidency…but I also admit a bit odd being situated in London’s Parliament Square?? BUT I also know that the placement of statues and memorials can be quirky things and in my opinion, are often rooted in the context of when they were established, and who funded them. When one stops to consider, it is crazy that we are only now seeing a woman in Parliament Square. Thank God GB had leading female monarchs or else we might never see women of marble or stone! At least progress is moving, as with Jane on the ten pound note. The skirt detail of the Millicent statue is unreal. Looking forward to seeing it in person on my next jaunt through Westminster. I would assume Margaret Thatcher will be there someday…? Was she the first female PM? #FarawayFiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 12, 2018 / 4:54 pm

      You would think that Mrs T would join them at some point

  22. May 13, 2018 / 10:50 pm

    This is brilliant. I must go and see the statue. Reading this has made me think about how many statues in London are men, It is so important that women are recognised too, lets hope this is the beginning of change. It I will certainly be more conscious of now when out and about #FarawayFiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 14, 2018 / 7:40 am

      I was fortunate to grow up in Norwich where there was a prominent statue to Edith Cavell, lets hope that we now see many more statues of good women

  23. May 14, 2018 / 3:32 am

    What a great read. As you know, we are dealing with our own women’s movement here in the U.S. Every effort and bit counts, and I’m sure it must have been a special day to witness the unveiling. Thanks for linking up with #farawayfiles

    • Catherine
      Author
      May 14, 2018 / 7:37 am

      It was a great moment, as you say every little helps

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