In a double first, Gillian Wearing is the first female artist commissioned to create a statue of the first woman to be celebrated with a statue in Parliament Square.
Fawcett and the part she played in the Suffragist movement is considered instrumental in achieving the Representation of the People Act 1918 which enabled suffrage for men over 21 and women over 30.
The statue will hold a placard containing a quote from a speech she gave following Emily Davison‘s death during the 1913 Epsom Derby, reading “Courage calls to courage everywhere”.
Dame Fawcett will take her place alongside the existing eleven statues of men. Sam Smethers, Chief Executive of the Fawcett Society, which campaigns for equality, said: “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.”
The statue has been commissioned as part of 14-18 NOW, the UK’s arts programme for the First World War centenary and by the Government 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 support for returners to work after time spent caring, and funds to tackle domestic violence and abuse.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “As a proud feminist… I 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.”
The statue will be unveiled next year.