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Girls & Women

This Suffragist Leader Will Be the First Woman Honoured With a Statue in London's Parliament Square

The Female Lead

A statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett will become the first ever monument to be built at London’s Parliament Square that’s dedicated to a woman.

The square has always been a historic boys' club — 11 statues of important men that silently compete for selfies with its closest famous neighbour: the now bong-less Big Ben.

But Tuesday’s announcement smashes through the status quo after activists spent months tirelessly campaigning to see women celebrated.

Feminist activist Caroline Criado-Perez launched the viral campaign last year, to physically commemorate the suffrage movement in Parliament Square. The petition received over 85,000 signatures, and was publically backed by JK Rowling and Emma Watson.

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It was the second great victory for activist Criado-Perez in recent weeks, as she was also behind the campaign to get a woman commemorated on a UK banknote — a campaign that achieved victory last week when the new £10 note featuring author Jane Austen went into circulation.

Now, Sadiq Khan’s application to Westminster City Council for planning permission has been approved, and the statue will be erected in time for next year’s 100-year anniversary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act — the historic moment that first gave British women over 30 years old the power to vote.

“As a proud feminist at City Hall, I have given Caroline’s inspired campaign my full support and am delighted that we have been given the go-ahead to bring the first ever statue of a woman to the centre of British democracy in Parliament Square — something which is long overdue,” said London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

“Next year marks a century since the start of women’s suffrage in the UK — one of our country’s most pivotal moments — and our mission now is to ensure that we can begin the centenary celebrations with the unveiling of this landmark piece,” Khan said.

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The statue will immortalise Millicent Fawcett at 50 years old — the year she founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies. She will hold a placard that says “courage calls to courage everywhere,” a quote from a speech she made after the death of Emily Wilding Davidson, a suffragette, at the Epsom Derby.

The artist commissioned to produce Fawcett’s statue, Gillian Wearing, will also become the first female sculptor to have her work featured in Parliament Square. She’ll work with a diverse group of historians and academics to ensure that Fawcett’s character and leadership is accurately captured.

“I am really delighted that planning has been granted,” said Wearing, a Turner Prize winning artist. “Now Millicent Fawcett's statue can stand as an equal amongst male statues in Parliament Square.”

Global Citizen campaigns to achieve equality for women around the world, through our Level the Law campaign, which demands an end to laws that discriminate against women. You can join us by taking action here .