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.
March 27, 2021
Inspired by the Sunderland Soroptimists and author Nancy Revell - whose "Shipyard Girls" series of novels have become bestsellers - Sunderland City Council has backed the plan to raise the profile of women, many of whom played a pivotal role in the war effort. Soroptimist member Suzanne Brown began a conversation with Sunderland City Council, making the case for a permanent tribute. Artist Rosanne Robertson, born and bred in Sunderland, has been commissioned to produce the public sculpture which will stand proud near The Beam, overlooking the banks of the River Wear where the shipyards once were.
“These were women undertaking jobs like welding, riveting, burning and rivet catching, as well as general labouring, operating cranes, and painting. It was perilous work, yet history seems to have forgotten them”. artist Rosanne Robertson
The ambition, now delayed, was to have the sculpture, which is expected to be around three metres high, in place by summer 2020. Kevin Johnston, principal landscape architect at Sunderland City Council, said they would stand alongside Ray Lonsdale's sculptures of men in the emerging Riverside Sunderland area...and that he was hugely excited to work with the Soroptimists, Rosanne and Nancy. "It’s going to be such a poignant piece of art.”
In case we find ourselves thinking that the case for more statues of women is a no-brainer, let us remember that as well as this proposed tribute to the women workers, and despite the country already being exceptionally well served with male statues, six new statues of men have been commissioned at a cost of £390,000 by Sunderland City Council for the city centre, designed by sculptor Ray Lonsdale ( a man ) who also designed Seaham's 'Tommy' statue ( a man )
and the recently unveiled sculpture in Hetton, Da said “Men Don’t Cry” ( another man and boy ).
Cllr John Kelly ( another man ) said: "Sunderland is rightly famed as having once been the largest shipbuilding town in the world and people are tremendously proud of their shipbuilding heritage. This is a very accessible way of celebrating our shipbuilding past and paying tribute to all those who worked in the industry and made it the success that it was". It is good to see workers from the shipyards, collieries and breweries being honoured and understandable to want to commemorate the industrial past of the area, but the work of women seems to have been fogotten unless they took on men's roles, thus making them 'honorary men'? Perhaps it's time for some 'women's work' to also be consdiered as worthy of commemoration?
And to name but 4, there are women who have excelled in their careers and social responsibilities; Ida and Lousie Cook, activists who smuggled Jews out of Nazi Germany, Dr Marion Philips, first female MP in Sunderland or Kate Adie, courageous journalist and broadcaster.
March 13, 2021
A statue is planned for the univesity campus in Bristol of Henrietta Lacks, dubbed the 'mother of medicine'. She died from cervical cancer in 1951 but a sample of her cells survived and multiplied. The scientific work these cells enabled led to the polio vaccine, gene mapping and IVF treatment among other advances. Henrietta's cells are also currently being used in Covid-19 research. Prof Tavare, the dean of the faculty of life sciences, said the unveiling of the statue on campus in October would coincide with the start of the university's work on "the decolonisation of our curriculum which will include an acknowledgement of the invaluable contributions black people have made to science over the years".
Sculptor Helen Wilson-Roe
And her statue will be made by Helen Wilson-Roe, so this will be the first full size statue of a black woman sculpted by a black women in the UK. Great that Bristol has been able to find such a worthy woman of colour to celebrate, in contrast to the sad saga of Colston, the slave trader.
March 9, 2021
Dr Sarah Younan and artist Dr Wanda Zyborska explore memory and memorialisation, monuments and why we have themin a free talk, "Monuments as Memory and Whose Memories of What? part of Oriel Myrddin Gallery’s project Hoelion Wyth Cymdeithas // Pillars of Society funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund’s #15minuteheritage.
This seems like a very timely discussion of the topic, in which Dr Sarah Younan and artist Dr Wanda Zyborska will explore memory and memorialisation, monuments and why we have them, considering recent protests in America and here in the UK. Wanda will talk about the annual collaborative protest she has been performing since 2012, the H M Stanley Funeral Condom Re-Veiling.
There will be a chance to discuss some of the themes raised in small groups after the talks.
Dr Sarah Younan - Questioning the Role of Monuments as Memory
Statues are a dated form of memorialisation; Sarah will explore and question old and new ways of remembering in public spaces.
Sarah works as youth engagement coordinator at Amgueddfa Cymru and is particularly interested in socially engaged projects in art and heritage. Born in Germany and raised in Kenya Sarah moved to Wales in 2009 and completed her PhD at Cardiff School of Art and Design in January 2016. As an artist Sarah has exhibited work both in the UK and abroad and her practice spans performance, ceramics, digital technologies, research and maintenance art.
March 8, 2021
Design for Mary Anning statue
International Women's Day brings us this great image of paleantologist Mary Anning striding forward - covered in the Page 3 Profile of the i newspaper and in the Express and Star (link below) - epitomising the progress of both this campaign for a statue of her in Lymne Regis, and of other campaigns for statues of women around the country. The Mary Anning Rocks campaign recently reached their funding goal.
Virginia Woolf, on a bench of her own..
All this is all in a terrible time of pandemic when we could all be forgiven for letting our attention be elsewhere. But this has really not been the case, proving again that the memory of these women and their acievements is actually of real importance to us all. What we leave for future generations does matter. This figure of the renowned author Virginia Woolf is, fittingly, on 'a bench of her own' echoing her concept of a woman needing 'a room of her own" in order to be able to work. Laury Dizengremel, the sculptor of Virginia told the Express and Star that the drive for more female statues, “is not about excluding men: It’s about just recognising that there’s a long way to go still on gender equality.”
Three more sculptures by Christine Charlesworth are almost ready as well, to help the steady progress towards that equality.
Dame Ethel Smythe, Woking Borough Council
Dame Ethel Mary Smyth was one of the rare breed who attained prominence as one of the most accomplished female composers in a male dominated environment, and as one of the main representatives of the suffragette movement. Her statue has been comissioned by Woking Borough Council, to be unveiled later in the year, once choral singing is be permitted again.
Emily Willding Davidson Suffragette
Emily had defied the odds in a male-dominated society, by graduating with both a a BA at London University and a first class honours degree at Oxford University. She became an activist who was a martyr to the cause of women's suffrage; killed when she ran in front of King George V’s horse in the 1913 Derby. Her statue will stand in the town centre of Epsom, home of the racecourse, to be unveiled in June.
Greta Thunberg, Winchester University
And just to bring us right up to date, this is a glimpse of the maquette for the statue that Winchester Universlty has commissioned of climate crisis activist Greta Thunberg, due to be unveiled in late March. The work will be known as "Make a Difference"; an inspiration for students of for decades to come.
Feb. 18, 2021
Yesterday Helen Pidd wrote in the Guardian ( link below ) about MPs response to the letter below concerning the proposal to erect 1750 statues of men.
Sir John Hayes said in January: “Tragically, too many who have given and achieved so much have been all but forgotten. In many places, locals may be unaware that they tread in the footsteps of heroes" but even more tragically his chosen route to select those to be honoured is by ( overwhelmingly male ) miltary prowess alone, a group who are already extremely well commemorated. The great, widespread and continuing work of women in all fields of endeavour and in our communities goes unremarked and uncommemorated, often relegated by that convenient debasing catch-all term "Women"s Work". This is in fact the work without which we cannot survive or thrive. Worthy and heroic actions do not take place on the battlefield alone.
My letter Sir John Hayes MP...
I write as the founder of inVISIBLEwomen, a virtual museum and national campaign for gender equality in UK civic statues. The best estimate of the number of UK statues of named non-royal men was 500 at last count in 2016, whilst named non-royal women numbered just 25. Given this astonishing existing imbalance I was shocked by the proposal of the Common Sense Group concerning the erection of statues to all holders of both the Victoria and George Cross.
You are reported as saying that the group
“has 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”,
Coming from a government that has so often stated its backing for gender equality this idea seems wholly retrograde. These are, without doubt all heroic people, but the vast majority of them are men and civic statues are already overwhelmingly male.
There are laws about discriminating against women, but it seems that women can, in fact, be hugely discriminated against in terms of who we as a nation have to ‘look up to’ both literally and figuratively, in our civic statues. Nationally there are a number of active campaigns for statues of women and a long waiting list of nearly one hundred other worthy candidates on the inVISIBLEwomen website. If the public purse is really to be used for new statues surely it is these women who should have first call on such funding? Even if every one of them had a statue, we would still not have come close to gender equality in who we look up to on civic plinths, but at least it would be a step in the right direction.
The Fawcett Society reports that of the 1761 holders of the Victoria and George Cross all are male except for 11 women. If the suggestion to erect statues of all of these were implemented, even including the few recent additions to statues of women, men would still outnumber women by the staggering amount of 2250 to 50. Surely members of a government that makes claims to embrace gender equality should not now be promoting a move which would set back equality of representation in UK statues by decades.
Current campaigns for statues of women include the suffragettes Mary Clarke, Amy Walmsley, Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, and Sylvia Pankhurst, the palaeontologist Mary Anning, MP Barbara Castle, author Virginia Woolf, wartime nurse Elsie Inglis and the striking Matchgirls as well as one statue, ready to erect of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher which has been delayed for some time. It is debatable whether the installation of a statue of any other former male Prime Minister would have had to endure such controversy.
Mary Clarke died so women could vote. Elsie Inglis and her team saved the lives of thousands of soldiers.The Matchgirls changed the course of industrial relations in this country. These women are in no way negligible. Given that we are already so extremely well supplied with monuments to men and the military, now has to be the time to honour these overlooked women and so begin to achieve a more balanced view of what and who is worthy of being ‘looked up to”.
cc Rt Hon Oliver Dowden MP, Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP
Feb. 17, 2021
In South Devon, the Bigbury Parish council in Burgh Island have unanimously rejected a plan to celebrate two 18th Century pirates Anne Bonny and Mary Read in a statue. Detractors from the statue say that "a tribute to the local pilchard industry or a fisherman's wife looking out to sea" would be more appropriate. The statue, by sculptor Amanda Cotton, celebrates the pair who broke gender boundaries. Dr Rebecca Simon, an expert on the history of piracy, said they were exceptional for their time. "Seafarers were almost always men in the late 17th and early 18th Centuries because women were not generally even allowed on ships; they were thought to be bad luck and not up to the physical challenges. These two were inseparable and they were most likely lovers,"
image from cover of The Trial of Anne Bonny and Mary Read by Tamara J Eastman & Constance Bond
Anne Bonny was born in Ireland joined her lover's - Captain Calico Jack's - crew and became a pirate in the Caribbean. Mary Read was passed off as a boy by her mother and spent most of her life pretending to be a man, but eventually she was discovered and had to get married. After the death of her husband Mary went on a voyage and the ship was captured by pirates. Given the choice of dying or joining the pirate's crew, she chose the latter. As a pirate, Mary encountered Anne Bonny and they became friends and worked together on Captain Jack's ship. Bonny and Read were both eventually captured and sentenced to death in Jamaica, although their sentences are thought to have been stayed until they gave birth.
Giles Fuchs, who owns the island, is reported as saying that he thought the 2.5m (8.2ft) tall statue on the island's rocky shoreline was a brilliant idea and it seemed like a no-brainer because the island was notorious for smuggling and has its own Pirates Day.
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.