A statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett by Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing OBE has been unveiled in Parliament Square in a ceremony attended by the Prime Minister and the Mayor of London today.
Managed by the Contemporary Art Society Consultancy, it is the first-ever monument of a woman, and the first created by a woman, to stand within the square.
The highly technical project required technology not yet available on the market and input from specialists across the UK including 3D modellers, foundry workers, costumers and the Fawcett Society.
Alongside Fawcett, the names and portraits of 59 women and men who campaigned for women’s suffrage are inscribed on the plinth.
Head of CAS Consultancy, Fabienne Nicholas, said: “One woman does not a movement make. This memorial is intended to celebrate all the women and men who contributed to the partial enfranchisement of women in 1918 and the subsequent achievements since. So many of these individuals have been subsequently overlooked by history so it has been illuminating to work with Gillian, the Fawcett Society and feminist historians to uncover their stories and share them with the people of London once this statue is unveiled.”
Prime Minister, Theresa May, said: “I would not be here today as Prime Minister, no female MPs would have taken their seats in Parliament, none of us would have the rights and protections we now enjoy, were it not for Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett.
“The struggle to achieve votes for women was long and arduous and Dame Millicent was there from the beginning. For decade after decade, in the face of often fierce opposition, she travelled the country and the world, campaigning not just for the vote but on a whole range of issues.
“I want to thank Gillian Wearing for creating a beautiful and fitting tribute to Dame Millicent and to everyone involved in making this happen.
“For generations to come, this statue will serve not just as a reminder of Dame Millicent’s extraordinary life and legacy, but as inspiration to all of us who wish to follow in her footsteps.”
Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Today is an historic day. Finally, Parliament Square is no longer a male-only zone for statues. This statue of Millicent Fawcett, the great suffragist leader, will stand near Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela – two other heroic leaders who campaigned for change and equality. There couldn’t be a better place to mark the achievements of Millicent Fawcett, in the heart of UK democracy in Parliament Square.”
Artist, Gillian Wearing OBE, said: “I want to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has worked on this sculpture and plinth. It was so heart-warming to see the care and attention that went into the work. I can only say I am truly grateful. I hope those viewing the work will be able to appreciate this along with being able to celebrate Millicent Fawcett along with all the other suffrage supporters and activists also honoured.”
The unveiling ceremony was presented by BBC broadcaster Mishal Husain and featured poet Theresa Lola, performances from the cast of Sylvia and the Suffragist Singers and an adaptation of Millicent Fawcett’s 1918 Victory Speech by award-winning actress, Helen McCrory OBE.
The statue was commissioned by the Mayor of London with 14-18 NOW, Firstsite and Iniva to commemorate the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, through the Government’s national centenary fund.
You can read more about the project here