Suffrage Stories: Suffragette Statues: Or Why Does The Present Take No Interest In The Past?

Suff Fellowship statueYesterday I was intrigued to notice from Twitter that Caroline Criado-Perez has launched a petition to put a statue of a suffragette in Parliament Square.

Fair enough. Even though there are already campaigns to put Sylvia Pankhurst on College Green (see here) and Emily Davison inside the House of Commons (see here) there’s no harm in some more lobbying.

I could see, because she had gone to the trouble of having a photograph taken of Mrs Pankhurst’s statue, with herself on one side and the House of Lords looming on the other,  that Caroline Criado- Perez knew about that icon of commemoration. But did she, I wondered, know about the Suffragette Fellowship memorial on Victoria Street – the other side of Parliament Square from Mrs P’s statue in Victoria Gardens?

I asked in a tweet if she had visited that memorial and when she replied that she hadn’t I sent her a link to a piece on it that I had written for my website. See here for the history of the Suffragette Fellowship memorial, unveiled in Christchurch Gardens, Victoria Street, in 1970 to commemorate not any one Great Woman but the foot-soldiers of the suffrage campaign.

Incidentally it is interesting that in 1970 the Suffragette Fellowship commissioned an abstract, symbolic memorial rather than a representation of any one figure. The current petition doesn’t suggest who might be so honoured as to stand alongside the random collection of gentlemen, of various shapes and sizes, on the Parliament Square roundabout. It strikes me that Mrs Pankhurst is far more enviably placed, with Richard I and Oliver Cromwell, right alongside Parliament. In fact it was lobbying by former suffragettes that ensured that her statue was positioned as close as it could be to Parliament, not separated from it by a stream of traffic.

If I were to put my head above the parapet I would suggest that if anybody is to be honoured in 2018 it should be Millicent Garrett Fawcett. But I suspect that her style of steady, clever, wry, non-militant campaigning, culminating in the final behind-the-scenes wartime lobbying that finally gained some women the vote, has little contemporary popular appeal. But I shall be interested to see how this campaign progresses.

STOP PRESS: Excellent news. Millicent Garrett Fawcett has, indeed, been selected as the woman whom this campaign, backed by the Fawcett Society, will propose should stand in Parliament Square.




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  1. #1 by Hazel on May 10, 2016 - 4:47 pm

    I was dismayed by yesterday’s exchange and I think this is an interesting response. I’ll be surprised if the choice is Millicent Garrett Fawcett or, my favourite, Sylvia Pankhurst. I am looking forward to seeing if the campaign comes to anything.

    • #2 by womanandhersphere on May 10, 2016 - 5:13 pm

      Thanks for this,Hazel. Much appreciated.

      • #3 by Hazel on May 10, 2016 - 8:11 pm

        She was jolly rude and unnecessary with you. You are essentially on the same “side”!
        Personally, I think the campaign is barking up the wrong tree. Emmeline Pankhurst has a great statue in a great location so why not honour pioneering women like Margaret Bondfield, Ellen Wilkinson, Jennie Lee, Barbara Castle, etc?

      • #4 by womanandhersphere on May 11, 2016 - 9:42 am

        Ah’s a lesson I should have learned long ago . E

  2. #5 by kate20694 on May 10, 2016 - 6:03 pm

    Focussing on the headliners of the Suffragette campaign casts aside so many who fought for the vote. A statue of one person will miss the point, surely? If it was one woman, my personal vote would go to Constance Lytton, for what it’s worth

    • #6 by womanandhersphere on May 10, 2016 - 6:23 pm

      many thanks for taking the time and having the interest to comment. I do appreciate it. And, of course, it was to get away from the Great Woman idea that the Suffragette Fellowship erected the memorial ‘to the courage and perseverance to all those men and women …etc’.

  3. #7 by Irene Cockroft on May 10, 2016 - 6:42 pm

    Dear Elizabeth

    I am so sorry that you have had this shock when trying to help someone seemingly interested in the past. It can seem like an alien world out there. Commiserations!

    Please lift your spirits and continue to lift everyone else’s (well, almost everyone) with your encyclopaedic knowledge of the women’s movement. If you didn’t exist we would have to invent you.

    I’m feeling a bit low at the moment. I’m recovering from a two week cold virus. I know I’ll be strong in spirit again soon but right now, bad experiences can be upsetting.

    Look after your health first and foremost.

    Irene X

    • #8 by womanandhersphere on May 11, 2016 - 9:44 am

      Dear Irene
      Thanks for your message. Well, I suppose I brought it on my self! I do hope you feel better soon.
      Best wishes

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