Green light for Millicent Fawcett statue in Parliament Square

19 September 2017
  • Mayor of London’s planning application given the go-ahead by Westminster City Council
  • Work will begin on historic statue later this year, with a model of the monument unveiled today
  • The statue will be both the first statue of a woman and the first created by a woman to stand within Parliament Square

Plans for a statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square, the first-ever monument of a woman to stand within the iconic central London location, have been given the go-ahead. This follows a successful planning application from the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan to Westminster City Council.

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and the Mayor are working to ensure that the statue will be unveiled for the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act, which gave some women the vote, and was introduced thanks to the campaigning of Fawcett and other suffragists and suffragettes.

Following Caroline Criado-Perez’s campaign for a statue of a woman in Parliament Square, the Mayor announced Turner Prize-winning Gillian Wearing as the artist who will take the landmark project forward, making it the first statue created by a woman to be erected in the square.

Gillian Wearing today unveiled a model of the monument, which will be a contemporary depiction of Millicent Fawcett at the age of 50, the year the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies was founded. The statue will portray Fawcett holding a placard which reads ‘courage calls to courage everywhere’ – taken from a speech she gave after the death of Suffragette, Emily Wilding Davidson, at the Epsom Derby. Loaned by the Fawcett Society, an original brooch which was presented to Fawcett will be scanned and cast in bronze to feature as part of the monument.

The entire statue will be cast in bronze, using 21st century technology, and will complement the heritage of the iconic square. It will also acknowledge the contributions of the many other supporters involved in the struggle for universal suffrage by including the names of people who helped lead the campaign along the statue's plinth.

Throughout the creation of the statue, Gillian will work with an ensemble of historians, academics and artists to ensure the monument properly reflects the suffrage movement and Millicent Fawcett’s leadership and character. The monument will join the 11 statues already in Parliament Square including Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Winston Churchill.

Gillian was selected as the artist following a rigorous process undertaken by the Suffrage Statue Commission, which included gallery directors, curators, cultural leaders and campaigners, chaired by Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries, Justine Simons.

Earlier this year, the Government announced that the statue would be funded as part of a £5 million fund to celebrate the centenary of women’s suffrage. This was part of a wider package of funding for women’s issues in the Budget, including £5 million to support returners back to work after time spent caring, and £20 million to tackle domestic violence and abuse. 

Caroline Criado-Perez launched her campaign for a statue in Parliament Square in May 2016, with a petition which was signed by almost 85,000 people. Communities Secretary Sajid Javid and the Mayor backed the campaign, and have worked alongside other campaigners and civil society groups to ensure the statue can be located in Parliament Square. The statue of is co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW, the UK’s art programme for the First World War centenary.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “As a proud feminist at City Hall, I have given Caroline’s inspired campaign my full support and am delighted that we have been given the go-ahead to bring the first ever statue of a woman to the centre of British democracy in Parliament Square – something which is long overdue. Next year marks a century since the start of women’s suffrage in the UK - one of our country’s most pivotal moments – and our mission now is to ensure that we can begin the centenary celebrations with the unveiling of this landmark piece.

“This will be one of the most momentous and significant statues of our time and I know that Gillian Wearing’s exceptional talent and unique insight will do great justice to the movement and Millicent Fawcett’s legacy. We want this statue to depict the strength and determination of the women who dedicated their lives to the fight for women’s suffrage and to inspire many generations to come – and I know Gillian’s creation will do just that.”

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said: “Aged just 22 Millicent Fawcett gave her first speech on women’s suffrage and then campaigned relentlessly for nearly 50 years before the vote was finally given to women.”  

“I am proud that this beautifully designed statue of Fawcett in Parliament Square will inspire a new generation to champion her struggle for equality and women’s rights.”

Artist, Gillian Wearing, said: “I am really delighted that planning has been granted, now Millicent Fawcett's statue can stand as an equal amongst male statues in Parliament Square.”

Writer and activist, Caroline Criado-Perez, said: “I’m thrilled that we have been given the go ahead to install not only the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square, but also the first statue created by a woman. Let her stand facing Parliament for years to come reminding us all that “Courage calls to courage everywhere.”

Jenny Waldman, Director of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary, said: “14-18 NOW is delighted to commission this new work by Gillian Wearing, which is a powerful way to remember the work of Millicent Fawcett and this landmark moment in history. A hundred years ago, during the First World War, the role of women changed dramatically; this new sculpture is a way to reflect upon the suffrage movement and the huge impact it has had on our lives.”

Justine Simons OBE, Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries and Chair of the Suffrage Statue Commission, said: “I’m delighted that we have been given the green light to bring this important statue to life. One hundred years ago women advocated, campaigned and fought bravely against a system that denied them their fundamental democratic rights. Honouring their struggle in Parliament Square could not be more appropriate.

“Gillian has produced a brilliant and thoughtful contemporary work, which also fits within the traditional context of Parliament Square. The sculpture will celebrate the leadership of one woman, while recognising the diversity and number of women who made up the suffrage movement. With Caroline’s ambition and Gillian’s creativity, as well as the overwhelming support we’ve had from the public, the statue will be a fantastic celebration of these inspirational women.”

Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society, said: “Putting a statue of a woman in Parliament Square is long overdue but it is absolutely right that it is Millicent Fawcett who is being commemorated.  She made it her lifetime's work to secure votes for women. 

"We need statues of women in all our town squares and major cities. Who we commemorate and celebrate says a great deal about who and what we value.  Monuments of women are largely invisible from our public spaces. This has to change."


Notes to editors

  • The Contemporary Art Society submitted the planning application to Westminster City Council on behalf of the Mayor and other partners. 



Gillian Wearing was born 1963 in Birmingham. She lives and works in London.

Wearing has a solo show opening at The National Gallery of Denmark, Copenhagen in October this year.

Recent solo exhibitions include Sandra and Gerald Fineberg Art Wall, ICA Boston, 2016; Instituto Valenciano de Arte Moderno, IVAM, Valencia, 2015; A Real Birmingham Family, Centenary Square, Library of Birmingham. Birmingham, 2014; We Are Here, The New Art Gallery Walsall, Walsall, 2013; Whitechapel Gallery, London, toured to K20, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf and Pinakothek der Moderne, Museum Brandhorst, Munich, 2012; A Real Birmingham Family, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2011; Confessions: Portraits, vidéos, Musée Rodin, Paris, 2009; Living Proof, ACCA, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2006.

Solo publications include Gillian Wearing, Whitechapel Gallery and Ridinghouse, London, 2012; Family History, Film and Video Umbrella and Maureen Paley, London, in association with Artists in the City, Reading and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 2007; Living Proof, ACCA, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne, 2006; Mass Observation, Merrell, London / New York, and Museum Of Contemporary Art Chicago, Chicago, 2002; A Trilogy, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, 2002; Broad Street, Gillian Wearing, Museu do Chiado, Lisbon, 2001; Gillian Wearing - Sous influence, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, 2001; Gillian Wearing, Centro Galego de Arte Contemporánea (CGAC) and Fundación la Caixa, Barcelona, Santiago de Compostela, 2001; Unspoken, Kunstverein München, Munich, 2001; Gillian Wearing, Serpentine Gallery, London, 2000.

Gillian Wearing is represented by Maureen Paley, London; Tanya Bonakdar, New York and Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

Gillian Wearing won the Turner Prize in 1997 and was awarded an OBE in 2011.

Caroline Criado-Perez is a writer, broadcaster and award-winning feminist campaigner. She is published across the major national media and regularly appears in both print and broadcast as a commentator. Her first book, Do it Like a Woman, was published by Portobello in 2015 and was chosen by Bridget Christie as one of her books of the year in the Guardian. She is currently working on her second book, which will be about the gender data gap. Caroline has a degree in English language and literature from the University of Oxford, and is completing an MSc in Gender at LSE, focusing on behavioural and feminist economics. She was the 2013 recipient of the Liberty Human Rights Campaigner of the Year award, and was named OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2015.

Caroline Criado-Perez’s campaign was launched in May 2016 via a petition:

Suffrage Statue Commission

(Chair) Justine Simons, Deputy Mayor for Culture and Creative Industries

Jenny Waldman, Director 1418 NOW

Caroline Criado-Perez, campaigner

Tamsin Dillon, Curator 1418 NOW

Melanie Keen, ‎Director Iniva,

Sally Shaw, Director Firstsite Colchester

About 14-18 NOW

14-18 NOW is a programme of extraordinary arts experiences connecting people with the First World War, as part of the UK’s official centenary commemorations. It commissions new work by leading contemporary artists from all art forms.  The commemorative period is marked by three key seasons - Anniversary of the Declaration of War in 2014, the anniversary of the Battle of Jutland and the Battle of the Somme in 2016, and the centenary of Armistice Day in 2018. 14-18 NOW is responsible for the UK tour of the iconic poppy sculptures by artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper, and ‘We’re here because we’re here’ by Jeremy Deller in collaboration with Rufus Norris.

14 -18 NOW is supported by the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund and Arts Council England, by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, and by additional fundraising.  14-18 NOW has commissioned over 140 artworks to date that have been seen by more than 30 million people.

Statues currently situated in Parliament Square

Wornum's scheme incorporated the line of existing London plane trees on the west side of the Gardens and placed three of the four existing statues of 19th century politicians on new pedestals along a raised terrace, bordered by Portland stone walled planters and large jardinières. These three statues are:

Sir Robert Peel (1788-1850), Prime Minister, Home Secretary and founder of the Metropolitan Police. Sculptor: Matthew Noble. Listed Grade II (erected in 1876 and moved to this position by Grey Wornum in 1949).                                                                                                    

Benjamin Disraeli, Earl of Beaconsfield (1804-1881), Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer, Leader of the House. Sculptor: Mario Raggi. Listed Grade II (erected in 1883 and moved to this position by Grey Wornum in 1949).

The Earl of Derby (1799-1869), Prime Minister, classicist and biblical commentator. Sculptor: Matthew Noble. Listed Grade II (erected in 1874 and moved to this position by Grey Wornum in 1949).

Northwest corner of the Gardens and on the axis from the North Door of Westminster Abbey:

Lord Palmerston (1784-1865), Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary. Sculptor: Thomas Woolner. Listed Grade II (erected in 1876 and moved to this position by Grey Wornum in 1949).

Field Marshal Jan Smuts, (1870-1950) a philosopher, he studied law in Cambridge, became Prime Minister of South Africa, was co-opted on to Lloyd George’s 1914-18 War Cabinet, helped draft the covenant of the League of Nations, in 1941 became a British Field Marshal, and was frequently consulted by Churchill during World War II. Smuts suffered moral defeat at the hands of Gandhi in the aftermath of the Natal Miners’ Strike but later went on to respect Gandhi’s achievements. Sculptor: Jacob Epstein. Listed Grade II.

The next memorial to be erected (in 1973), on a site at the east end of the north terrace was:

Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965), historian, orator, First Lord of the Admiralty in both World War I and World War II, when as Prime Minister and chief director of the war effort, his speeches contributing greatly to the maintenance of morale during the war years. Sculptor: Ivor Roberts-Jones Listed Grade II. In his 1949/50 layout, the architect Grey Wornum had earmarked this site for Churchill’s public memorial and created it deliberately for this purpose.

2007 saw the erection of the next two memorials. On the north terrace, between Sir Winston Churchill and Field Marshal Jan Smuts:

David Lloyd George (1863-1945), Prime Minster, Chancellor of the Exchequer and Minister of Munitions during World War 1, where he was to acquire the reputation of the man who led the nation to victory through the power of his oratory. Sculptor: Glynn Williams (erected in 2007).

South west corner of the Gardens at the lower level of the terrace steps and Portland stone planter walls: 

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013), Anti-apartheid activist with the ANC, committed to peaceful protest following the inspiration of Gandhi. South Africa’s first black President. Sculptor: Ian Walters.

Followed in 2014, also set at the lower level but within reconfigured Portland stone planter walls, between Nelson Mandela and Field Marshal Jan Smuts:

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948), led India to independence from the British Empire and inspired non-violent civil rights movements around the world. Campaigned to ease poverty, expand women’s rights and end untouchability. Sculptor: Philip Jackson.

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