Millicent Fawcett to be first woman statue in Parliament Square

Millicent Fawcett Image copyright Getty Images

The suffragist Dame Millicent Fawcett is to be the first woman to be honoured with a statue in Parliament Square, the prime minister has announced.

The equal rights campaigner who dedicated her life to getting the women's vote, will stand alongside Sir Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.

Theresa May said Dame Millicent "continues to inspire the battle against the injustices of today".

All 11 statues in the central London square are currently men.

The new statue will be funded using the £5m fund announced in this year's spring Budget to celebrate next year's centenary of the first British women to get the vote.

Millicent Fawcett formed the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies in 1897.

The organisation used peaceful tactics to campaign, including non-violent demonstrations, petitions and the lobbying of MPs. Born out of the suffragist movement came the suffragettes - the more radical and militant group led by Emmeline Pankhurst.

Dame Millicent died in 1929, a year after women were granted the vote on equal terms to men.

Image caption Sir Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln and Nelson Mandela are among those with statues in Parliament Square

Prime Minister Theresa May said: "It is right and proper that she is honoured in Parliament Square alongside former leaders who changed our country.

"Her statue will stand as a reminder of how politics only has value if it works for everyone in society."

Dame Millicent's legacy continues today through the women's rights charity, the Fawcett Society.

Welcoming the announcement, chief executive Sam Smethers called it a "fitting tribute".

"Her contribution was great but she has been overlooked and unrecognised until now. By honouring her we also honour the wider suffrage movement," she said.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Dame Millicent Fawcett addressing a meeting in Hyde Park - circa 1913 - as president of the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies

Ms Smethers also acknowledged the work of activist Caroline Criado-Perez, who launched the campaign for a suffrage statute.

"This statue is also a tribute to her and a testament to what one woman can achieve on behalf of all women," Ms Smethers said.

Writing on Twitter, Ms Criado-Perez said: "Delighted with such a decisive response from (the prime minister) to our campaign.

"Huge thank you to everyone who supported the campaign from the beginning."

Author JK Rowling and actors Emma Watson and Naomi Harris were among those who signed an open letter to London mayor Sadiq Khan in May last year, calling on him to erect a statue of a suffragette.

A petition which followed attracted more than 70,000 signatures.

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