If you have traveled to London, chances are you happened upon Parliament Square, a historic site featuring 11 statues of prominent figures in British history. If you have indeed been to this square, you may also have noticed that all of the statues depict men. This is about to change, as Prime Minister Theresa May recently announced.
In many aspects, Britain can be seen as rather progressive. Theresa May is the second female prime minister and their queen is the world’s longest-reigning monarch. Because of these incredible women at the forefront of British politics, movements toward the construction of this new statue have been met with an abundance of support.
The decision to add this statue was spurred by an 11-month campaign led by Telegraph Women and activist Caroline Criado-Perez. This campaign included a petition supported by over 74,000 people and a letter to London Mayor Sadiq Khan, which was signed by a number of powerful women, including Emma Watson and JK Rowling.
The statue, which is scheduled to celebrate next year’s centenary of the first British women voters, will depict Millicent Garrett Fawcett. Fawcett was a huge figure in the British suffragist movement, having served as president of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1897. Fawcett worked tirelessly as an outspoken leader of the suffragist movement and was able to see her work come to fruition just one year before she died in 1929 at the age of 82.
Fawcett worked towards women’s right to vote for over five decades as a more moderate activist than the radical suffragettes also present at the time. She campaigned for other important rights for women, including access to postsecondary education.
Sajid Javid said that this statue would be a “fitting tribute” to Fawcett, to whom we owe “a debt of gratitude. Standing in front of Parliament, it will remind us all of the sacrifices Fawcett made and the journey that we as a country have come on over the past 100 years.”
Theresa May spoke about the choice to honor Fawcett, saying, “The example Millicent Fawcett set during the struggle for equality continues to inspire the battle against the burning injustices of today. It is right and proper that she is honored in Parliament Square alongside former leaders who changed our country. Her statue will stand as a reminder of how politics only has value if it works for everyone in society.”
May’s acknowledgment that Fawcett belonged with the statues of other leaders in British history indicates that her influence was as important as Churchill’s. Not only does this statue represent the incredible change Fawcett helped accomplish in the past, but it also serves as a reminder that the battle continues today. People will soon be able to walk through the square and be inspired by Fawcett’s image to continue fighting for change and equality.
Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society, also spoke about the statue. She recognized the work of Caroline Criado-Perez on the campaign, saying, “This statue is also a tribute to [Criado-Perez] and a testament to what one woman can achieve on behalf of all women.”
We can follow the lead of Fawcett and Criado-Perez by working every day on behalf of ourselves and all women in the movement for true gender equality.
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