Everything you need to know about the first woman to have a statue on Parliament Square

A statue of Millicent Fawcett has taken pride of place in Parliament Square, London.

The sculpture is the first of a woman, and the first created by a woman, to stand in the famous Westminster square.

Parliament Square
Parliament Square (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Here’s everything you need to know about the historic monument.

Who was Millicent Fawcett?

Fawcett in 1913
Fawcett in 1913 (PA Archive)

Fawcett was a suffragist who led the drive for women’s votes from 1866, when she was 19, through peaceful but tireless campaigning.

Her efforts are considered instrumental in leading to the creation of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which first gave some women the vote in the UK.

Fawcett’s statue has been erected to mark the centenary of the 1918 Act.

Suffragette Pilgrimage to Hyde Park
A suffragette pilgrimage to Hyde Park (PA Archive)

A detailed model of the piece shows Fawcett standing holding a sign that reads “Courage calls to courage everywhere”, in a tribute to a speech she gave on the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davidson at the 1913 Epsom Derby.

Who is the artist who made the sculpture?

Gillian with her self-portrait at the National Portrait Gallery
Wearing with a self-portrait at the National Portrait Gallery (John Stillwell/PA)

Gillian Wearing won the Turner Prize in 1997 for 60 Minutes Silence – a video piece which saw a host of police officers sitting quietly in front of a camera for an hour.

Gillian Wearing with the police officers in the 90s
Wearing with the police officers (PA Archive)

Wearing incorporated one of Fawcett’s brooches into the design of the statue, borrowing the original from the Fawcett Society so it could be scanned and cast into bronze for the final work.

How did this all come about?

Caroline Criado-Perez
Caroline Criado-Perez (Yui Mok/PA)

Fawcett’s statue is the product of a campaign launched by Caroline Criado-Perez in May 2016. Her online petition on change.org for a statue of a woman to be erected in Parliament Square attracted almost 85,000 signatures.

The Government announced last year that the statue would be paid for with a £5 million fund.

Fawcett joins 11 other statues in the square including Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill.

Prime Minister Theresa May said: “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 honoured in Parliament Square alongside former leaders who changed our country.”

LifeWeb editor