Moves to Honour Women with Civic Statues

It is great to see the Amy Johnson project being used as a ‘Result’ and encouraging to see other projects underway. Read the latest inVISIBLEewomen article for more results of moves to honour women with civic statues.

“Believe Nothing to be Impossible”

inVISIBLEwomen has been running for one year and aviator Amy Johnson’s words “believe nothing to be impossible” begin to ring true; we are witnessing a change in attitudes to civic statues. And this is not before time, given that 85% of civic statues are of men and arguably form the UK’s oldest subliminal ad-campaign for the patriarchy.

There is a quiet, persistent power in a civic statue

Support for this shift has come from such diverse people as Prime Minister Theresa May and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, both approving, across the party divide, of the statue of Millicent Fawcett to be erected in Parliament Square, an all-male preserve since 1832; the most prominent ‘gentleman’s club’ in the capital.

This campaign for a female statue began with an open letter from Caroline Criado Perez followed by an online petition with over 70,000 signatures and has shown the weight of approval behind this kind of long overdue public recognition.

Progress – the status quo is shifting

This year new statues to women have been erected around the country, honouring both historical and present day figures, beginning to rebalance who we are “looking up to” in our city squares and public places. Two statues were erected of aviator Amy Johnson, in Herne Bay and Hull. They were the result of a fast, dynamic campaign run by Jane Priston, who harnessed local interest, goodwill and funding, and even went as far as posing for the sculptor to speed the process along!

Amy on the seafront at Herne Bay and the “Women of Steel” who kept the steel factories running during the war, are now commemorated in a beautiful memorial in Sheffield resulting from a campaign using “Just Giving” to raise funds; a cause so popular that it raised more than was needed for the statue.

Another route to success was taken by the sons of Cylla Black who funded this memorial to their mother. This lively likeness of the singer, entertainer and household name now stands in Liverpool where she launched her career.

A singer from another era, Gracie Fields, described as “the Madonna of her day” was honoured in Rochdale, with funds raised by the town’s Rotary Clubs.

Mary Seacole, a pioneering nurse in the Crimea, is at last commemorated outside St Thomas Hospital in London. The long campaign has been ultimately victorious despite meeting with some resistance, surprisingly from the Florence Nightingale Association.

The achievements of real women must not be airbrushed out of history. Gender equality in civic statues is possible. It really is time for more Plinths for Women!

Find out more about current campaigns and how you can get involved.

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