Current media coverage, active campaigns, public involvement and creative interventions, in the debate that has been running since at least 1952.
If you are thinking of starting a campaign for a statue or memorial honouring women and would like to find some wonderful inspiration for ways of getting attention just check the tactics used in campaigns like those for Mary Wollstonecraft and Emmeline Pankhurst.
What a brainwave to project Mary Wollstonecraft's image on to the Houses of Parliament, a great way to get her in the public eye.
And imagine the power of organising a public vote like the one in Manchester to start the conversation and get a real sense from the wider public about who they truly value.
The energetic, effective campaign, led by engineer Jane Priston, to celebrate the astonishing achievements of pioneering aviator Amy Johnson resulted in not one but two beautiful, lively statues.
So that’s a thought to bear in mind; is there more than one place that is significant in the life of the person or group that you are campaigning for? Once the sculptor’s work is done, more than one cast can be made. We have such a lot of ground to make up in terms of the recognition of women that this is a strategy worth considering. Amy was important both to the people of Hull where she was born and in Herne Bay where she died.
Another clever feature of these statues is that even without a sound component they still allow Amy’s inspiring words to reach us through engravings of her words on the surface of the statue.
And for some food for thought from the USA take a look at the Moving On page for the Millie Dresselhaus video. Attitudes are changing everywhere.
The clever "Wifies" - www.wifie.org.uk - in Edinburgh made life size portraits (above) of the women they wanted to see honoured, then set them around the city: a real call to action.
Sheffield City Council used the “Just Giving” site as part of their fundraising efforts. They attracted 295 supporters and exceeded their goal of raising £150,000 and actually got £163,166. The campaign reached a highly motivated group of givers. One of the very many supporters who donated said she had made her donation:
“In memory of our lovely brave Mother, Mary Gilbert (Nee Broomhead) who worked in Munitions at Stocksbridge Steel Works during the Second World War. Remembering too, all these ladies, from both wars.”
With the extra money raised Sheffield City Council were able to strike commemorative medals to be presented to the surviving steel factory workers.
Feb. 7, 2021
The campaign's latest newsletter announced that fantastic sculptor Hazel Reeves has agreed to create the statue of Elizabeth. Hazel sculpted the famous bronze Emmeline Pankhurst statue in Manchester and also The Cracker Packers in Carlisle and is an admirer of Elizabeth Elmy and her work.
Hazel said, “I am absolutely thrilled to be sculpting Elizabeth, such an extraordinary activist who had been written out of history until Elizabeth’s Group was compelled to tell her story in bronze.”
Chair of Elizabeth’s Group, Susan Munro said: “I was literally moved to tears when I got the news that Hazel Reeves is onboard with us. Her passion for Elizabeth and her enthusiasm for the project made me realise that this is it, this is going to happen! This is the best possible outcome for us. Now it’s down to sheer hard work to finish the job.”
They are planning to unveil the statue on International Women’s Day next year – 8th March, 2022.
Feb. 7, 2021
At a time when you might imagine any fundraising effort would be, understandably, very hard pressed, we see that Mary Anning really does rock! Their campaign, launched last November has raised £100,000, hitting the target to enable them to build Mary’s statue. The group has had the support of Sir David Attenborough and Professor Alice Roberts and donations from everyday people giving their hard-earned cash to something truly inspirational.
They now want to go after a further £50,000 to allow them to set up the Mary Anning Rocks Learning Legacy, that will live on after the statue is raised. The educational program will include free learning materials and funded fossils walks for children from under-served backgrounds, enabling the next generation of Earth Scientists to get out on the beaches to find fossils just like Mary did when she was a child over 200 years ago.
Feb. 7, 2021
The statue for Sylvia campaign is celebrating the casting. Here is the work in progress at the foundary.
The team are working now to raise funds to make Sylvia a “talking” statue. This is a simple process where a passerby inputs a code into their mobile phone (on a plaque by the statue) and is called back with Sylvia’s story. A great way to inform footfall through Clerkenwell Green about the causes for which Sylvia campaigned and which remain relevant today.
Jan. 31, 2021
Remember him? Robert Jenrick, the man who plans to make a law giving ministers the "Final Veto" over any statue being taken down? https://www.invisiblewomen.org.uk/gettingattention/post/172
Now he is giving his backing to the strangely named Tory "Common Sense Group" who propose that a statue be built of every recipient of the Victoria Cross (VC) and George Cross (GC). These plans have been branded a “slap in the face” to women across the UK. The scheme would also see memorials built, plaques put up, and roads and public buildings renamed in honour of the recipients of the George Cross (GC). All in all, the Fawcett Society estimates that's about 1,761 men and 11 women; Victoria Cross (100% men) and George Cross (more than 97% men)
John Hayes, the MP from South Holland and The Deepings, the safest Tory seat in the UK, chairs the group. He said they have “launched a campaign to honour every recipient of the VC and GC through the erection of a statue, immortalising them in their place of birth”.
Alys Mumford, the chair of the Women 50:50 campaign group, said the plans seemed “misguided”.. men and the military “are already hugely over-represented in our public spaces” and the Government would be better served commemorating those who have been “forgotten and ignored”. Felicia Willow, the chief executive of the Fawcett Society, the UK’s largest membership charity campaigning for gender equality, said the Tories’ plan “beggars belief” and that the proposal was “unsupportable”."Why does it take years of campaigning or fundraising to get statues of worthy women erected - people like Millicent Fawcett and Mary Wollstonecraft - while nearly 2000 more statues commemorating men are pushed forward by politicians and funded by the public purse? It simply beggars belief.” She called on the Government not to push it any further forward.
Given the recent active public engagement with the power of civic statues this seems like a move to head off real consultation with communities about who we actually want to see honoured. It's a crafty plan. If anyone objects - as for example the many campaigns for statues of women who have been working independantly for years to raise funds - they can be labelled as disrespectful of these heroic men. And that leaves local councils between a rock and a hard place with Mr Jenrick writing to them to urge them to support the scheme.
The one thing that is clear is that the government recognises the value of the statue and given this plan for so many more men to be honoured, we could be forgiven for assuming that they don't want women to get a look in, let alone fair representation. Too late, because people everywhere have woken up to the power of the plinth.
Jan. 23, 2021
The 2021 Women’s Marches are being replaced by a global survey on gender equality
"January 2017, millions of people took to the streets in cities around the world to participate in the first Women’s Marches. Sparked by the ascension of Donald Trump to the US presidency, and timed to coincide with his inauguration in Washington DC, these marches were mass protests against misogyny – a force that many believed helped propel Trump into the White House and damaged the chances of his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton. Five years on, much has changed. Trump’s presidency, now at an end, proved to be just as damaging as so many predicted it would. The Women’s Marches have evolved from a relatively spontaneous outpouring of anger into annual events and an international network of thousands of activists. Now the world is in the grip of the deadliest pandemic in over a century – making it impossible for the Women’s Marches to go ahead as planned in 2021. Instead, the organisers are launching a digital initiative to amplify the voices of women around the world. Spearheaded by Women’s March Global, the Global Count online poll is billed as one of the largest surveys ever undertaken to establish the cultural, economic and social barriers to women’s progress around the world.
The poll was officially launched on 21 January – the day the Women’s Marches would ordinarily take place – and closes on International Women’s Day on 8 March. It comes at a time when concerns have been raised about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on women and other marginalised groups. Find the count at Women’s March Global Click on 'Campaigns'.
"The Global Count is a count of all women, non-binary, and transgender people from every country, culture and racial background around the globe. We must listen to women and gender-diverse people everywhere in the critical push for global gender equity. To ensure all voices are counted as we face the post-pandemic global reset. Insight and data about what women want is scarce. And where it does exist, it’s systematically and divisively neglected from policy and programme design. The Global Count is an online poll for women and gender-diverse people that has been designed to ensure intersectional voices and priorities are counted in policies and funding programmes. In short, the Global Count is our chance to use our collective voice to design our new world, the way we say it should be for the benefit of all of us."
Jan. 23, 2021
Image: BJ Donne/Creative Commons
Fossil hunter Mary Anning to get a statue
For those of you not yet familiar with Positive News may I recommend it as a great antidote to the current difficult times. The latest issue featured the Mary Anning statue campaign amongst thier various cheering stories. Mary Anning, "a fossil hunter and palaeontologist who has been all but forgotten by history, is to be commemorated by a statue. It follows a crowdfunding campaign established by a teenage girl who hails from the same town. Evie Swire, 13, of Lyme Regis, Dorset, was disappointed to learn that in spite of Anning’s contribution to palaeontology, there was no statue to celebrate her." The article also gives details of Anning's life and achievements.
Swire launched a crowdfunder which has raised £70,000 to commission a sculptor. A statue of Anning will now be erected in Lyme Regis on 21 May 2022, the 223rd anniversary of her birth.
Jan. 23, 2021
Another statue campaign in the news; Mary Clarke in Brighton has been featured in both The Times by Lucy Bannerman,
" Pankhurst’s loyal younger sister escaped an abusive marriage to become an organiser in the fight for votes for women, winning praise for her “pluck” and courage. Every afternoon, between 3pm and 5pm, she would give speeches on the Brighton seafront before crowds of hundreds, dealing calmly with hecklers who hurled rotten apples and facing down mobs who threatened to “throw her off a cliff”.
The campaign was also featured in the local newspaper, The Argus Women are under-represented | The Argus
"Mary Clarke is such a worthy person to be the first to represent the powerful suffrage movement here in Brighton. These women fought so we could vote - imagine if they had not - and Mary died in that fight "
Jan. 18, 2021
In Brighton, despite the pandemic, sculptor Denise Dutton delivered the much anticipated bronze maquette of Mary Clarke, the first suffragette to die for women’s right to vote, in time for Mary’s birthday on 12th December.
Image Andrew Hasson
The Mayor, Cllr Alan Robins, who has shown unstinting support for the campaign, received it on behalf of the Appeal and the people of Brighton & Hove. The maquette represents Mary released from prison, in Brighton, a day or two before her death, wearing a suffragette sash and carrying copies of 'Votes for Women', the suffragette newspaper. The front page depicts the events of ‘Black Friday’, when, shortly before she was arrested and imprisoned, she and hundreds of other women were assaulted by police. Mary wears the Hunger Strikers’ medal and walks over the implements used in forcible feeding, which are imbedded in the surface of the plinth. She gestures towards a lamp at her feet which she has placed there for others to pick up. This refers to the words of Isabella McKeown spoken after Mary’s death
“Her they must not mourn in silence. They must take the torch from her and light the darkness...”.
Jan. 18, 2021
Robert Jenrick, the communities secretary, said that the government is planning new legal protections for statues linked to colonialism and racism, that the UK should not try to 'edit' or 'censor' its history and decisions to take down heritage 'assets' in England will need both planning permission and a consultation with local communities to go ahead. Mr Jenrick said there had recently been attempts to “erase” pieces of "our national story”.
“This has been done at the hand of the flash mob, or by the decree of a ‘cultural committee’ of town hall militants and woke worthies. We live in a country that believes in the rule of law, but when it comes to protecting our heritage, due process has been overridden. That can’t be right.” He uses the Colston statue in Bristol as his prime example, failing to mention the decades of community protests and democratic petitions to have it removed. What he also fails to ask is who actually decreed that such statues should be erected in the first place? Who had the power? Were "local communities" consulted? He paints a rosy picture about the choice of civic statues saying "Most were erected not by government diktat like in the Soviet Union – but by public subscription, by a borough, village or a parish, a college, a regiment or a local business. They reflected the people’s preferences at the time, not a single, official narrative." He fails to mention that all these "choices" were overseen by the prevailing white patriarchy and political power base, which consisted almost entirely of old white men who, time and time again, erected one of their own caste.
Jenrick's record does not inspire confidence, being questioned over his parliamentary expenses, his association with Richard Desmond's ( a Conservative Party donor ) £1 billion luxury housing development, saving Desmond estmated millions, by-election expenses irregularities and his woeful handling of the Grenfell Tower disaster. All in all, hardly a paragon to be trusted with our cultural heritage.
This great new awareness of the power of the civic statue has obviously touched a nerve in the heart of that old patriarchal power base, but legislation will not turn back this tide. True consultation with communities may well produce choices that would not please Mr Jenrick and his old white band of brothers.
Dec. 1, 2020
Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian
Mona Eltahawy, a feminist author, who describes herself as a "commentator and disruptor of patriarchy" has written with feeling about Maggie Hambling's claim that the naked figure in the Mary Wosllstoncraft commemoration is an 'everywoman". In a discussion about the uses of the female nude in western art she says " Only a white woman can so blithely say “everywoman” in the year 2020 and offer a slim white nude as its prototype" Put in the context of a country whose historic colonising and Victorian prudishness has shamed the natural nakedness of colonised peoples, and used it to diminish them, this claim of an everywoman as naked and white is ironic, to say the very least. She also questions Hambling's assertion that “As far as I know, she’s more or less the shape we’d all like to be,” One can only wonder at whose version of the "ideal" shape she has bought into? Dissapointingly, it seems like the one sold to us by a patriarchy that profits from the continual attack on the many natural shapes of women, all pressured to conform to some impossible standard that can be sold clothes in tiny sizes and be made to feel forever not quite "good enough".
Dec. 1, 2020
In Denbeigh in Wales, this statue of Stanley, who was guilty of attrocities on workers on rubber plantations has been the site of protests lead by artist Wanda Zyborska, for seven years ( see post 92 ). Recent worldwide events have lead to the issue of the messages of civic statues finally rising to the top of the agenda.The Welsh government has ordered an audit into links with slavery in its public monuments. More than 200 statues, streets and buildings in Wales named after historic Britons have been identified as having connections to the slave trade. The review was ordered by First Minister Mark Drakeford following the death of George Floyd in the US and the toppling of the statue of Edward Colston in Bristol during a series of Black Lives Matter protests. The audit, led by Gaynor Legall, claimed that 'commemorations of people connected with the slave trade are often shown without any accompanying interpretation to address matters of contention which lead to the figures being presented solely as role models. This is the first stage of a much bigger piece of work which will consider how we move forward with this information as we seek to honour and celebrate our diverse communities.'
photo Daily Mail
Contractors have already boarded up a statue of slave trader Sir Thomas Picton at Cardiff's civic building following a vote to have it removed. Councillors said Picton's 'abhorrent' behaviour as Governor of Trinidad meant he was 'not deserving of a place in the Heroes of Wales collection'
The Monumental Welsh Women group has alrteady begun an ambitious project to get statues of women erected across Wales, spurred by the lack of a single statue of a real historical woman in any outdoor space in Wales. The 'Five Women' mission is to normalise female ambition and success by celebrating and commemorating the achievements of great Welsh Women and inspiring the next generation of great Welsh women(see post 144). From a shortlist of five candidates for a statue in Cardiff’s new Central Square, an online public ballot conducted by BBC Wales produced a clear winner. Betty Campbell (1935-2017) was the first head teacher of colour in Wales, a Cardiffian and champion of inclusivity who faced and challenged prejudice based on her race, class and gender. The people have chosen a black woman whose community credentials made her truly worthy of being looked up to.
Nov. 30, 2020
Sculptor Denise Dutton
During her lifetime Mary Clarke overcame multiple obstacles to fight for women's right to vote. She battled an abusive husband, rough manhandling by the police, repeated imprisonment and force feeding but nothing daunted her resolve. Likewise, the the campaign for a statue in her memory in Brighton is also forging on, through all the many difficulties raised by the pandemic. The finished wax of the maquette by Denise Dutton has gone to the foundry and, COVID-permitting, the completed bronze should be ready by early December, in time for the anniversary of Mary’s birth on 12th December and of her death on Christmas Day. If you would like to lend a helping hand donations can be made at https://localgiving.org/donation/mary-clarke-statue-appeal
Nov. 27, 2020
The recent, long overdue, outcry against the glorification of slave traders in civic statues both in the USA and the UK has heightened global awareness of the power of the plinth. The senseless, racist deaths of unarmed black men in the USA has been a focal point, but is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of inequality and injustice for the black community. The Black Lives Matter movement, founded by three women: Patrisse Khan-Cullors, Alicia Garza and Opal Tometi, aims to dismantle white supremacy in America which is the well-spring for racist violence, just as the prevailing patriarchal attitudes form the breeding ground for violence against women.
“femicide’” : “men’s fatal violence against women”
The figures for femicide worldwide are no less devastating and are part of the motivation for this site, for the gender equalisation of the figures we see set up to be admired in civic statues. If any society does not clearly demonstrate that it values and honours women as much as men, the implication is that women's lives do not have the same worth and can be taken with relative impunity.
As the world retreated inside homes due to the lockdown measures introduced to curb the COVID-19 pandemic, reports showed an alarming increase in the already existing pandemic of violence against women. Wednesday 25th November was International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, which will see the start of 16 days of activism against gender violence globally. That same day also sees the publication in the UK of a groundbreaking report, Femicide Census, which, for the first time in Britain, analyses the shocking killings of women and girls, from the age of 14 to 100, at the hands of men, over a 10-year period, 2009-2018. The census reveals that, on average, a woman was murdered every three days – a horrifying statistic, unchanged over the decade in spite of greater public awareness and increased research.
It is appalling figures such as these in Mexico that give rise to powerful protests, like this moving song on youtube; Vivir+Quintana
Nov. 18, 2020
An 'Everywoman' or just another piece of fodder for the male gaze?
Caroline Criado Perez, who campaigned for women's images on banknotes, said "This feels disrespectful to Wollstonecraft herself and isn't that the most important part? In Wollstonecraft's own words: 'Taught from their infancy that beauty is woman's sceptre, the mind shapes itself to the body, and roaming round its gilt cage, only seeks to adorn its prison.'
Liberal feminists might celebrate this as being sexually liberating and ignore the fact that the vast majority of statues of men are fully clothed, and that they outnumber statues of women by about 25 to one. Author and feministcampaigner Julie Bindel desrcribed it as looking like "a Christmas tree decoration and not a very nice one at that".
The campaign, called Mary on the Green, said on its website that the naked woman represents "an everywoman" that "emerges out of organic matter, almost like a birth." But many critics didn't see it that way -- nor did they appreciate the use of female nudity in a statue designed to celebrate Wollstonecraft's efforts to improve women's rights.
Bea Rowlatt, the campaign leader said "The work celebrates her contribution to society with something that goes beyond the Victorian traditions of putting people on pedestals." She thanked those who had "engaged thoughtfully" with the artwork -- adding that "if you don't like this sculpture there are other campaigns for amazing women that deserve support."
Nov. 10, 2020
Photograph: Jill Mead/The Guardian
In her life Mary Wollstonecraft rose phoenix-like from the misery of growing up with a father, a drunk, who squandered the family money and abused both her and her mother. She received little formal education but nevertheless educated herself so that at 25 she was able to open a girls' boarding school on Newington Green, North London. She debated with the intellectual radicals of the day; Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine and Joseph Priestley and at 33 wrote her most famous work "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman" which imagined a social order where women were the equals of men - imagine that! - but died aged only 38 following the birth of her daughter, the author Mary Shelley, who gave us 'Frankenstein'.
The statue has caused fierce debate; the sculptor, Maggie Hambling, picked by a judging panel in 2018 said:
“This sculpture encourages a visual conversation with the obstacles Wollstonecraft overcame, the ideals she strived for, and what she made happen. A vital contemporary discourse for all that is still to be achieved.”
Writer Tracy King tweeted: "There is no reason to depict Mary naked unless you are trying to be edgy to provoke debate. Statues of named men get to be clothed because the focus is on their work and achievements. Meanwhile, women walking or jogging through parks experience high rates of sexual harassment because our bodies are considered public property."
Caroline Criado Perez, who campaigned for Jane Austen to appear on the £10 note and wrote Invisiblewomen, said the statue "feels disrespectful to Wollstonecraft herself".
Historian Simon Schama wrote that he "always wanted a fine monument to Wollstonecraft - this isn't it".
Writer Bee Rowlatt, who has led the 10 year long campign to get a sculpture celebrating Mary Wollstonecraft in Newington Green said
“It will definitely start a conversation....it will... promote comment and debate and that’s good, that’s what Mary did all her life.”