The first statue of a woman has been unveiled in Parliament Square this year, 2018. And not just any woman…
Suffragist, Activist, Author, Speaker, Investigator, Empower-er. Millicent Fawcett’s statue pays testament to this incredible person, ahead of her time, who fought for the plight of women, for children, for education and for universal suffrage.
“Courage calls to courage everywhere, and its voice cannot be denied”
She was the leader of the NUWSS, the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, from 1897 to 1919, and subscribed to non-violent forms of protest, leading multiple campaigns that have affected both law and education in the U.K today.
Beginning her political career at the young age of 22 years old, Fawcett went on to be instrumental in multiple campaigns across the U.K.
She campaigned for the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts, an act that allowed for the imprisonment of prostitutes if they passed on a sexual disease to a client and an act that discriminated heavily against women and violated basic human rights.
She was also instrumental in campaigning against the frightful conditions of the concentration camps of the South African War. She eventually formed a relief fund for women and children affected by the Boer War, having undergone an investigation as leader of the commission of women who went to South Africa into the conditions in their concentration camps.
More than anything Millicent Fawcett fought for the rights of women. She was an auxiliary, part of the fight for universal suffrage, and was committed to the constitutional (non-violent) earning of this vote. So Fawcett and her 50,000 strong NUWSS members stayed a non-violent part of the suffragist movement. In 1918 the ‘Qualification of Women Act’ was eventually passed, giving women over the age of 30 the vote. Millicent Fawcett was able to see her lifelong dream realised a year before she died in 1929 when Parliament equalised the voting age.
And now Parliament, 100 years on, has paid tribute to her and her instrumental part in the 1918 Representation of the People Act. The statue, created by artist Gillian Wearing, winner of the 1997 Turner Prize, is the first sculpture of a woman to appear opposite the Houses of Parliament.
Carrying a banner that reads: “courage calls to courage everywhere”, Millicent Fawcett’s statue is a reminder of everything she changed, everything she campaigned for, and everything she gained.
An emblem to remind us to all Defy.
Words by Sophie Field