- 29/04/18 - People
Finally, one hundred years after women got the right to vote, Dame Millicent Fawcett becomes the very first woman to be commemorated with a statue in Parliament Square.
For most of Millicent's life (born 1847 - died 1929), women did not have the right to vote during political elections. She became a devoted campaigner in her 20's for the suffragist movement, a nonviolent battle for women's rights. In 1897, Fawcett became the President of the 'National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies'. She was 81 when she finally saw women given the right to vote on the exact same terms as men in 1928. She would die the next year after 60 years of a tireless campaign for equality.
Prime Minister Theresa May who held a speech during the statue's unveiling, reminded the crowds that there would not have been any women in parliament without the dedication of Fawcett. "I would not be standing here today as prime minister, no female MPs would have taken their seats in Parliament, none of us would have had the rights and protections we now enjoy, were it not for one truly great woman - Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett,” May said.
The statue, designed by Gillian Wearing, was unveiled on 24th April. Making this event twice as significant for women, Wearing is the first female sculptor to have a statue in Parliament Square. The statue was installed in the square because of the work of a third prominent woman: Caroline Criado Perez, a journalist and campaigner, formerly best known for successfully campaigning to get another woman, the writer Jane Austen, on the new 10 Pound bills. Ms Criado Perez launched an online petition after noticing, whilst walking her dog, that there were no female statues among the 11 in the square. Her work helped secure Fawcett's place outside the Houses of Parliament. Dame Millicent Fawcett now stands an equal alongside many other iconic figures in political history including Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln and Mahatma Ghandi.