Aldeburgh’s Millicent Fawcett recognised in new Westminster statue
- Credit: Archant
Politicians from across the political spectrum have joined together to recognise the achievements of Aldeburgh born suffragist Dame Millicent Fawcett as a new statue was unveiled in her memory.
The statue is made from bronze and depicts Mrs Fawcett holding a banner with the phrase “courage calls to courage everywhere”: a nod to a speech she gave after the death of activist Emily Davison.
The piece – which depicts Mrs Fawcett at the age of 50 – was commissioned and produced by Turner Prize winning artist Gillian Wearing.
Prime Minister Theresa May was amongst those speaking at the event attributing her own position to the work of women like Mrs Fawcett.
Mrs May, said: “I would not be here today as Prime Minister, no female MPs would have taken their seats in Parliament, none of us would have the rights and protections we now enjoy, were it not for Dame Millicent Garret Fawcett.
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“For generations to come, this statue will serve not just as a reminder of Dame Millicent’s extraordinary life and legacy, but as inspiration to all of us who wish to follow in her footsteps.”
The statue is the first of a woman to feature in Parliament Square.
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Mrs Fawcett will be standing alongside names as Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi.
A campaign to erect a statue to Mrs Fawcett was started in 2016 by Caroline Criado Perez, the Brazilian-born activist and writer.
Ms Criado Perez had been running through the area when she realised that all the statues there were of men.
She said: “Women are still woefully underrepresented, but we are making one hell of a start in changing that.”
She started a petition from her mobile and was able to attract the support of Mayor of London Sadiq Khan who also spoke at yesterday’s ceremony.
Suffolk Coastal MP Therese Coffey was also present at the event: “As Suffolk’s first female MP, I was extremely proud to attend the unveiling of the first ever female statue in Parliament Square, Aldeburgh’s very own Millicent Fawcett, pioneer of women’s suffrage.
“Gillian Wearing’s beautiful sculpture gives Dame Millicent a permanent place in the very heart of our democracy that she fought so hard for women to participate in.”
From Aldeburgh to Westminster: Millicent Fawcett’s journey
Dame Millicent Fawcett was born in Aldeburgh in June 1847 to Newson Garret and his wife Louisa.
Her father was a businessman working in malt production and brewing who built Snape Maltings and later became Mayor of Aldeburgh.
Millicent was sent to boarding school in London and was interested in politics from an early age.
At 19 she heard a speech by philosopher and politician John Stuart Mill and became interested in the Suffrage movement.
She started by collecting names for petitions and quickly worked her way into the heart of the suffrage movement alongside her older sister Elizabeth Garrett Anderson, who later became the first female doctor in the UK and was the first female mayor of Aldeburgh.
Millicent married Henry Fawcett, a politician and professor of political economy at Cambridge, in 1867 and made her first speech on women’s suffrage in 1868.
Mrs Fawcett was known as a suffragist: a part of the vote’s for women movement who’s action was characterised by non-violent protest carried out in a non-confrontational way.
Suffragettes such as Emmeline Pankhurst, while fighting for the same cause, preferred a more militant approach and often rebuked the actions of the suffragists.
Mrs Fawcett believed that peaceful protest would put across the cause for votes for women in a better way making them seem more intelligent and responsible enough to take part in politics.
The Representation of the People Act was passed in 1918. It allowed women over the age of 30 and who held £5 worth of property – or whose husbands did – to vote.
Mrs Fawcett died in 1929 just a year after voting rights were extended to all women over the age of 21.
Mrs Fawcett, then aged 81, was sat in the public gallery in the House of Commons as the bill was passed.
Today Mrs Fawcett and her sister are recognised with blue plaques on their former family home in Aldeburgh.
The Fawcett Society continue her work and legacy by fighting for women’s rights and gender equality.
Members of her extended family still live in Suffolk and welcomed news of the statue when it was announced last year.