Recognition for a role model

By | News & Politics
A portrait of Dame Millicent Fawcett after contributing to gaining women the right to vote. Credit @Annie Louisa Swynnerton.

A recent speech from Prime Minister Theresa May acted as the conformation multiple petitioners may have been expecting: the announcement of a statue erected in honour of Dame Millicent Fawcett. The leader of the NUWSS acted as the driving force behind women eventually gaining the right to vote in 1918, yet her continued leadership and organisation of protests seemed to also contribute to this privilege being extended to all women ten years later. As such, this statue seems to be honouring her accomplishments, and in turn seems to be representing the achievements of all women in Britain. Thus, erecting a figure of perhaps one of the most influential women in British history may be another significant step in ensuring women’s legacies may be remembered on an equal berth, and her position alongside effigies of Churchill and Lincoln may accentuate this ideology further.

Fawcett founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, and attempted to use peaceful, tactics in order to amass the support of both MP’s and the general public. It may have also been her utilisation of complex predicaments which enabled women to be regarded as equals to men, as her work in South Africa in 1901, where she was elected a leader of the commission of women, the first time a woman had been trusted in such a role, coupled with her continuous influence after 1914 contributing to stability, seemed to be vital, as showcasing the contribution women had made to the war effort seemed to place her in an advantageous position. Ultimately, this seemed to prove her credentials as a leader, and thus she may be considered instrumental in gaining 8.5 million women the vote in 1918.

Prime Minister Theresa May during her speech in which she made the announcement. Credit

Prime Minister Theresa May during her speech in which she made the announcement. Credit

Theresa May made the declaration in a recent speech, with her words perhaps instigating the revival of interest in women’s suffrage. Planned for 2018, it commemorates the centenary of the passing of the Representation of the People Act, highlighting the advancements of gender equality since, whilst simultaneously reminding the population of how important a step this seemed to be. In addition, with the original campaign, which aimed to achieve this goal, spearheaded by Caroline Criado-Perez, it may highlight the influence Fawcett had on multiple women, who may aim to replicate her accomplishments, a suggestion echoed by Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, who stated the feat, “is testament to what one woman can achieve on behalf of all women.” With the statue perhaps regarded as part of the centenary celebrations, with a £5m fund unveiled by Philip Hammond, this may act as the catalyst in other key female figures to be recognised in similar fashion.

The announcement seems to have already amassed the support of the general public, with perhaps their quest for historical women to be honoured acting as the driving force in building ultimately commencing. It seems a petition, which attracted more than 84,000 signatures, may have highlighted the need for a Suffragist to be honoured, with the document aiming to reiterate the requests outlined in an open letter to London Mayor Sadiq Khan. Several influential figures, including Naomi Harris, announced their support of the campaign, and these influencers, who boast expansive networks, may have been fundamental in allowing the campaign to be accessible to the masses, ensuring the statue’s assembly. Therefore, the majority of the public seem to be having their will represented, showcasing how the power of the people may lead to productive impacts.

Millicent Fawcett's blue plaque. Credit

Millicent Fawcett’s blue plaque. Credit

The statue thus far seems to have produced beneficial outcomes for society, highlighting the achievements of significant women whilst also drawing attention to the continued quest for overall equality. Fawcett seems to have been tantamount in setting the precedent for reform, perhaps why she may be viewed alongside the eleven male figures in Parliament Square, enabling her reputation to be valued similarly, and laying the foundations for future effigies and honours. Ultimately, whilst the statue may prove Fawcett’s contribution to society, perhaps a fitting tribute for her achievements, the main productive conclusion may be the motivation showcased by the British public, proving how, just as Fawcett campaigned for innovation, they may do the same.

How may this announcement set a precedent for other influential women to be recognised, and rewarded?


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