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.
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.”
Oct. 3, 2020
Gender equality is one of the UN's sustainable development goals. Maybe it would be easier to achieve if the world had as many statues of women to look up to as it has of men. This inspiring group pf women are leading the Gender Alliance, to pursue the UN's goal.
In December 2019, some 30 female leaders from across the globe gathered together in Mérida, Mexico. They came from fields as varied as cyber law, peacebuilding, human trafficking and education, and they were meeting to kick off a new initiative, the Gender Alliance.
The mission for the alliance’s members, who include men as well as women, is to pursue the UN’s sustainable development goal No. 5, on gender equality, within their own organisations and communities: speaking up on behalf of women and girls, and fighting for justice. Members come from a quartet of organisations: the BMW Foundation Responsible Leaders Network, the Global Diplomacy Lab, the Bosch Alumni Network and the Global Leadership Academy Community.
Aug. 12, 2020
This memorial is yet another llustration of the attitudes to women and men in civic statues. Sir Arthur Sullivan, composer, is memorialised on Victoria Embankment Gardens in London. He appears, formally dressed in a bust on a plinth with a woman, naked except for some drapery, leaning against the pedestal, crying, described as his muse.
The Londonist says "Ever been so mournful that most of your clothes fall off? Such is the distress of the muse who weeps at the bust of Arthur Sullivan in Embankment Gardens. The woman's naked form — cheeky glint of bum crack and all — is out of whack with the suited, straight-laced bust of he whose operas enjoyed wild success at the nearby Savoy Theatre. The girl is supposed to represent music ... But though memorial aficionados London Remembers insist she "isn't just a sexy, topless Art Nouveau floozy," they also admit this is often considered the sexiest statue in London.
So, not so much a memorial to a musician, more an early version of a Page 3 Girl.
Aug. 4, 2020
The campaign for a memorial to enslaved African people has achieved a milestone with 107,000 signatories to the petition.
( The target was 100,000 ). Here is an impression of the memorial in its proposed location in the rose garden, Hyde Park, London.
As Afua Hirsch wrote in the Guardian, months ago " Britain was built on the backs of slaves. A memorial is the least they deserve". In Bristol it is now understood that the true history of the city's wealth, including that made from the slave trade, has to be part of understanding our past and its legacies. London too must surely acknowldege the need to include all our people in the history we teach and the memorials we erect.
Aug. 3, 2020
Three views of "Reaching Out" by Thomas J Price Sculptor Thomas J Price offers this representaion of an "Everywoman" which is to be erected on 5 August on Three Mills Green in Stratford. He says he chose not to represent a named person so as to portray human empathy with the unrepresented. This statue, a 9ft bronze, will take its place as part of the public art walk called The Line, which is London’s first official and permanent public art walk; a trail of sculptures running along three miles of waterways, following the path of the Greenwich meridian between Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and The O2. It is welcome addition to only 3 full size representations of black women in the UK, all sited in London: Mary Seacole outside St Thomas Hospital,
Dame Kelly Holmes in Portman Square
and 'Bronze Woman' in Stockwell Memorial Garden.
This new statue is strikingly similar to another of Price's statues installed on The Line, of a young black man, entitled "Network".
'Network' by Thomas J Price
An interesting distinction in titles; a woman is 'reaching out' and a man is 'networking'? Perhaps still a rather stereotyped view of the roles and preoccupations of women and men?
July 27, 2020
MIxed messages from the Archbishop, the Most Rev Justin Welby, who said that statues of Canterbury Cathedral are going to be looked at "very carefully" - including the overriding image of Christ as white, rather than Middle Eastern - to see if they should be there and suggested "some will have to come down". Pressed on whether he was saying statues will be taken down in the cathedral, Mr Welby said: "No, I didn't say that. I very carefully didn't say that."
All of which leaves us wondering exactly what he means? Such decisions must indeed be a cross to bear, with the weight of patriarchal history pressing on his shoulders.
On the recent calls for statue removals in the UK, the archbishop said people should forgive the “trespasses” of people immortalised in the form of statues, rather than tearing them down. And whilst forgiveness is a laudable aim, perhaps the simple conclusion is that if a figure is set up on a plinth then we are being asked to admire that person, to "look up to" that person and thier values, in which case those who are set up on plinths should not embody hateful and criminal activities.
July 25, 2020
These First Nation women have acted to claim their own place in history, so long denied, standing on the plinth where once Columbus stood.
Last week, a sign that read "Looter. Rapist. Slave Trader" was placed around the neck of the statue of Columbus in Detroit
The Columbus figure has been a target of vandalism in the city for years. This sign-hanging was one in a series of attacks on depictions of the explorer. Columbus monuments around the country have been targetted and removed in recent weeks; in Boston, a statue was beheaded; in Virginia, another was set on fire and then thrown into a lake. New York authorities have also been requested to remove multiple structures honoring Columbus, including the 70-foot monument at Columbus Circle in New York City.
In Detroit - just as in Bristol for the Colston statue - there have been formal requests for its replacement; in 2017 City Councilwoman, Raquel Castañeda-López, called for the removal of the bust alongside the designation of Indigenous peoples' day. The Indigenous Peoples' Day now exists on the same day as Columbus Day, but the figure remained. Just as in Bristol, these requests for removal fell on deaf ears, but in the current wave of iconoclasm the Detroit mayor has decided the statue ought to be placed in storage to allow the community time to evaluate the appropriate long-term disposition of the statue.
The sign hung around the neck of the statue also included the words which translate as "Tell the truth or someone is telling." and this is the story that is finally being told, worldwide, of revulsion at the historic glorification of men whose wealth was made from oppression and exploitation.
July 17, 2020
Jen Reid, Bristol Black lives matter protestor, has been immortalised by Marc Quinn in a statue "Surge of Power", that was put up clandestinely overnight on the plinth that was formerly the seat of the slave trader Colston. It is interesting that no action to remove his statue was taken for so many years, despite the thousands of signatories to a petition for its removal and the great weight of public opinion against him. Then, suddenly, when a rich white man is taken down and a young black woman takes his place, the action to remove her is so immediate and unhesitating.
In an interview art activist Deasy Bamford said
"It took them 35 years to do nothing and 24 hours to do something."
Of course, Bristol must decide in a democratic way who or what they choose to honour in their city. Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees has issued a statement about the need for a democratic process where the people of Bristol decide the future of the plinth. He said that a commission was being set up to tell a “fuller history” of Bristol, all of which is entirely laudable. However, it is sad that when civic statues of women are so extremely rare; less than 3% in the UK, at the last count ( and in Bristol they have 14 men on plinths and just 1 woman; the ubiquitous Queen Victoria ) and when statues of black women are even more rare, this one was removed without even giving people a chance to consider it. It seems harsh, especially when black women are arguably the human beings most discriminated against on the planet. There could have been a period of grace with an acknowledgement that her statue would be removed to allow democratic consultation.
There are also questions about whether a white man is the appropriate person at act in this situation. In response to this Marc Quin recalls a quote from Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” The artist adds: “White people in positions of power need to speak up and support change in the way black people are treated, their positions in society. I have been listening and learning and one of the phrases that really struck me was, ‘White silence is violence.’
The statue will now be held at the museum for the artist to collect or donate to the collection. Let us hope the people of Bristol take the opportunity to make their views known.
June 23, 2020
Dame Vera Lynn, who died this month aged 103 has been dubbed “an amazing lady and a national treasure... who can cross the generations and make us all smile at a time of crisis.” Conservative MP Maria Caulfield, who represents Lewes in Sussex where Dame Vera’s home was when she died, said: “Definitely I would support erecting a statue to her".
After weeks where activists have been trying to pull down pull down statues that personify some of the worst traits in human endeavour, it seems that Dame Vera's legacy is one of comfort and joy. The proposal for a monument has united many people in the country with wide support for it on social media. Former Conservative minister Sir John Hayes also added his voice to the growing calls. “She fully deserves to have a statue erected in her honour and it should be in the heart of London to remind us what a person of high calibre she was.”
Her daughter said a memorial would be "absolutely fantastic," adding that she "did so much and continues to do so much for people, and children and charities". Dover MP Natalie Elphicke said the white cliffs of Dover would be the "perfect place" for a memorial to "recognise Dame Vera's immense contribution".
This proposed statue to Dame Vera would be one that accentuates the positive legacy a person can leave. This is something it would have in common with virtually every other statue of a women in this country
June 12, 2020
To remember without glorifying
Protesters pulled down the statue of Colston during a Black Lives Matter march in Bristol on Sunday before throwing it into the harbour. It has now been pulled out. Bristol City Council has confirmed the statue, complete with graffiti and some of the rope used to bring it down, will go on display in the M-Shed museum along with placards from the protest. The team at M-Shed said: “Despite only being in the water for a few days, mud had filled the inside and obscured the evidence of its journey into the harbour.
“We spent the morning removing mud from its inside with a hose and extendable brush.The painted graffiti was particularly at risk from the cleaning so this was done very carefully to ensure it wasn’t washed off. The symbolism of his graffitti’d body has been preserved and the significance it has for us will be an important story to tell"
Statues are being attacked and toppled, and not without cause. There had been ongoing requests, including a huge petition, for the Colston statue on Bristol to be removed. No action was taken - not even the compromise solution of attaching a plaque that admitted the real source of the wealth that he bestowed on the city - the slave trade. The final result was the crowd that pulled it down and threw it in the harbour. Just as so many innocent slaves were thrown to thier deaths from slave ships.
So must it always come to this violent iconclasm? Could we review our public art in a more measured way?
How can we - how could Bristol - in all conscience leave up a tribute to a man in that evil trade? What will happen to the many statues now under scritiny could prove to be a model respnse to the conundrum that faces any society that acknowledges its past mistakes and acts to rectify them. Many suggest that the statues could be placed in museums. That would be useful as long as the entire history surrounding the person and thier legacy is clearly shown, as they plan to do in Bristol. In the case of Colston we not only learn about a key source of wealth of the city - many fine buidlings have been paid for from these ill-gotten gains - but we also learn how to respond to our growing awareness of issues previously hidden from public scrutiny. This will not be that last time we are faced with this process. Having failed to act before, Bristol could now prove to be a role model.
June 11, 2020
The statue of historical figure Robert Milligan on West India Quay in East London has been removed on public safety grounds. It is feared it will be targetted by protestors because of his connection to the slave trade.
The statue of the scouting leader, Robert Baden-Powell, in Bournemouth has been associated with facism and a sympathy with Hitler. It is reported to be on a target list for attack and the local authorities planned to move it to safe storage, but several people surrounded it saying it should remain.
(Dylan Garner/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP)
In Richmond, USA the statue of Confederate President Jefferson Davis was splattered with paint after it was toppled Wednesday night, And in Antrwerp, Belgium a statue of King Leopold ll, who oversaw an unimaginably brutal regime in Congo that led to the death of millions was taken down for 'public safety' this week.
A group of Native American women pulled down the Christopher Columbus statue in front of the Minnesota State Capitol and then danced around it while singing the song of the American Indian Movement. They said "This is to honor our ancestors and the women who started to go missing since Columbus landed."
These men, despite their connections with wicked and inhuman practices, have been set up as figures to be admired by a patriarchy that has profited from thier actions. It takes a lot for them to be removed. But awareness of the quiet persistent power of the civic statue is dawning on the wider consciousness. This awakening realisation of their significance - thier influence - is a chance to redefine how civic statues are chosen. This is a chance for the nation to reconsider who it wants to honour. This time of pandemic has given us a chance to understand who and what it is we really value. There are lots of truly worthy women on the Waiting List.
June 9, 2020
Today Mayor of London Sadiq Khan announced a commission to examine all statues in London with a view to removing those with links to slavery and plantation owners. The Black Lives Matter protests in Bristol and the toppling of the long disputed, deeply disliked statue of Colston have rightly brought this to the public's attention. He said "it's important that we take the right steps to work together to bring change and ensure that we can all be proud of our public landscape... the city’s landmarks – including street names, the names of public buildings and plaques – will be reviewed by a commission to ensure they reflect the capital’s diversity. In an interview on Radio 4 this morning he included women amongst those who should be honoured by more statues.
The commission - which will be co-chaired by Debbie Weekes-Bernard, the deputy mayor for social integration, social mobility and community engagement, and deputy mayor for culture and creative industries Justine Simons - will include historians as well as arts, council and community leaders.
Surely this must be an initiative that will be echoed everywhere in the country. Now is the time for us all to consider who it is that we will choose to be "looking up to".
June 9, 2020
In Oxford thousands of people have gathered outside Oriel College to demand the removal of a statue of imperialist Cecil Rhodes, a 19th Century businessman and politician in southern Africa, who stood for white supremacy and is steeped in colonialism and racism. Twenty-six Oxford city councillors have asked Oxford University to "decolonise" in a letter saying the figure at Oriel College was "incompatible" with the city's "commitment to anti-racism". The College said it "abhors racism and discrimination in all its forms". The removal of this statue has been repeatedly requested over the years, as was the case for the Colston statue in Bristol. Let us hope the authorites in Oxford realise that time is up on preserving symbols of oppression and displaying them for students to 'look up to'. This would be the perfect time to canvas students and residents about who they would like to see in a statue. The authorities need only glance at the 'Waiitng List' on this site for inspitration as to who might replace Rhodes. If anti -racism is truly a committment then what is called for now is 'Deeds not Words'.
June 8, 2020
In an article for National Geographic, Phillip Morris wrote:
“A 15-year-old Portland, Oregon, girl named Kellen S. created a Change.org petition called Justice For George Floyd that became the most signed petition in Change.org’s history, with now more than 16 million signatures. Kellen said in an interview that she realized the daunting challenge for people her age to become social leaders in times of great social upheaval and crisis. Her age was actually the asset. She recognized that social media would be the most effective tool to reach teens and spread awareness about police brutality and racism. Now, she has become a sterling example of how young leadership can foment and foster change.”