This morning, the first ever statue of a woman was unveiled in Parliament Square, central London, otherwise known as the heart of our democracy. Prime Minister Theresa May, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, and feminist and author Caroline Criado-Perez, who spearheaded the campaign, all gave speeches to mark the event, while the likes of Jeremy Corbyn and London's Night Czar Amy Lamé were also in the crowd.
It's a momentous occasion, not least because 2018 marks a century since many British women over 30 won the right to vote, but also because the bronze figure, of leading suffragist Millicent Fawcett, is the first in the square to have been designed by a woman, the Turner Prize-winning conceptual artist Gillian Wearing OBE.
When Khan announced the historic plan back in September, it marked the culmination of tireless campaigning by Criado-Perez, who also won the battle to have a woman (Jane Austen) featured on the new £10 banknote. Her change.org petition, launched two years ago, garnered 85,000 signatures and was one of the first things to land on the new Labour mayor's desk. "I wanted to see if this 'proud feminist' was up to scratch," she told the crowd during her speech today. Indeed, he lived up to his word. Statues matter because "they're a symbol of our values," Khan told the crowd. "They remind us of some of our most important battles – against slavery, against fascism, and now gender inequality."
The statue shows Fawcett, who was just 19 when she began campaigning for women's suffrage, holding a banner that reads "Courage calls to courage everywhere", a quote taken from a speech she gave after the death of fellow campaigner Emily Wilding Davison at the 1913 Epsom Derby. The sentiment struck a chord with the young women and girls in attendance.
"It's important to recognise that there are women who have been important in history," 16-year-old student Ammarah Khan told Refinery29. "Seeing this statue at a younger age might have pushed me to realise that there are lots of successful women as well as men." American tourists Julie and Robert Erskine said that while they "just stumbled across" the unveiling, they thought it was crucial to have a woman represented in Parliament Square because "she's inspirational too". "It's a male-dominated society so we might as well pay attention to the women who paved the way for the rest of us," Julie added. Too right.