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London’s Parliament Square to get its first statue of a woman

A century after she successfully campaigned to win women the right to vote, British suffragette Millicent Fawcett will become to first women honoured with a statue in London’s Parliament Square.

Plans to erect the bronze monument next to those of Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and nine other historic male figures received the final go ahead on Tuesday, London City Hall said.

Authorities hoped to unveil the “long overdue” statue in time for the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the right to vote for the first time, said London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan.


“We want this statue to depict the strength and determination of the women who dedicated their lives to the fight for women’s suffrage and to inspire many generations to come,” Khan said in a statement.

Fawcett, who formed the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1897, spent decades advocating for equal rights for women, including voting rights and access to higher education.

The idea for the statue gained momentum following an online petition which garnered more than 80,000 signatures and was backed by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling and actress Emma Watson.

The contemporary monument will depict Fawcett at the age of 50 holding a placard reading “courage calls to courage everywhere” – a quote from a speech she gave following the death of fellow suffragette, Emily Davison, who died after running out in front of the king’s horse at the 1913 Epsom Derby.

Designed by Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing it will be the first created by a woman to adorn the iconic square in front of Britain’s houses of parliament.

“I am really delighted that planning has been granted, now Millicent Fawcett’s statue can stand as an equal amongst male statues in Parliament Square,” said Wearing.

Fawcett led a peaceful campaign for equal rights including petitions, lobbying members of parliament and non-violent protests.


The movement gave rise to the more radical suffragettes, whose tactics included hunger strikes, arson and bomb attacks.

“We need statues of women in all our town squares and major cities. Who we commemorate and celebrate says a great deal about who and what we value,” said Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society which campaigns for women’s rights.

Britain granted some women the right to vote in 1918, but it wasn’t until 1928 that all women had the same voting rights as men.

Thomson Reuters Foundation