Lonely Planet Writer

London’s Parliament Square has its first statue of a woman

It may be long overdue, but London’s Parliament Square has gotten its first statue of a woman. The statue is of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett, who spent her life advocating for women’s voting rights.

A statue in honour of Millicent Fawcett is unveiled during a ceremony in Parliament Square on 24 April 2018 in London. Image by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Born in 1847, she campaigned from the age of 19, joining the executive committee of the London Society for Women’s Suffrage in 1867. While, like the more militant suffragettes, she pushed for voting rights, she favoured more peaceful methods.  She was still active in the movement when women won equal voting rights in 1928, a year before her death.

The campaign for the new statue began with London resident Caroline Criado Perez launching a change.org petition, which was signed by nearly 85,000 people. The idea gained the support of the Prime Minister and London’s mayor. Now, Fawcett’s statue stands in the square with statues of men like Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. The statue was designed by the Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing, who has also become the first woman to create a statue that stands in the square.

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, spoke about the statue’s significance: “Today is an historic day. Finally, Parliament Square is no longer a male-only zone for statues … This statue of Millicent Fawcett, the great suffragist leader, will stand near Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela – two other heroic leaders who campaigned for change and equality. There couldn’t be a better place to mark the achievements of Millicent Fawcett, in the heart of UK democracy in Parliament Square”.

The statue will certainly be seen by plenty of visitors, as the square is close to some of London’s top attractions like the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. But even if you aren’t in London, you can still learn more about the fight for the vote in the UK, as Google Arts & Culture, Gillian Wearing and Mayor Khan are sharing the stories of the suffrage campaigners on a new online platform at g.co/roadtoequality.

Thankfully, Parliament Square is just one of the statue-strewn parks that is finally recognising the contributions of women. Central Park in New York City will also unveil its first statue of a historic woman in 2020, fellow suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton.