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Emmeline Pankhurst

Statue of Mancunian hero, Emmeline Pankhurst, to be erected in Manchester

  • Emmeline Pankhurst, one of the most influential members of the early-Feminist movement, helped to secure women the right to vote
  •  Fundraising for the statue began earlier this year
  • Councillor Simcock, who started the campaign, intending to raise £100,000 before the unveiling of the monument

Back in 2014, a campaign was launched titled ‘The WoManchester Statue Project’, with the aim of celebrating the women of Manchester, and the important roles they play in our society to date.

Thanks to this campaign, suffragette leader, Emmeline Pankhurst, will be honoured with a statue in Manchester city centre. Besides royalty, she will be the first woman to receive such a tribute in over a century. Currently, the only female statue in the city commemorates Queen Victoria.

The statue of the activist and founder of Women’s Social and Political Union is set to be unveiled in St Peters Square on International Women’s Day 2019. Elizabeth Gaskell and MP Ellen Wilkinson were among the other iconic women up for nomination but Pankhurst won the vote with an overwhelming 5000 Mancunian votes. The statue will be a collective thank you from every British female who recognises that they owe a huge debt to the suffragette who shaped their future in such a monumental way.

Born in Moss Side in 1858, Pankhurst dedicated her life to fearlessly fighting for women’s suffrage. She was criticised for her militant tactics and was arrested numerous times. During protests, the union, led by Pankhurst, smashed windows and committed arson, much to the shock of British politicians. The suffragette leader once said: ‘I have never advised the destruction of life, but of property, yes.’

Pankhurst is considered one of England’s most influential women according to ‘TIME’. In 1999, the prominent global magazine based in New York named her as one of the 100 most influential people of the 20th century, stating: ‘She shaped the idea of women for our time; she shook society into a new pattern from which there would be no going back.’

Women finally won the right to vote, at the age of 21, one month after Emmeline Pankhurst’s death.

The statue will be funded privately. Councillor Simcock, who started the campaign, intends to raise £100,000 before the unveiling of the monument, and fundraising began earlier this year with a 1059 sponsored bike ride. Six designs have been shortlisted and brought before the House of Parliament. The designs are currently on display at Manchester Art Gallery and will remain there until the end of the month.

Councillor Simcock said: ‘There are currently 17 statues in Manchester, with 16 of them being men. The Emmeline Pankhurst statue will be the first statue of a woman in Manchester for over 100 years, so it is incredibly important to the city.’

The councillor said there had been lots of interest from sculptors, keen to receive the honour of designing the statue since the plans were announced.

‘Public austerity at the minute and the rise in homelessness means that no public money will be spent on the project’. Campaigners are looking for any sponsors to help fund the project.

Sadly, only 151 of 925 statues in Britain are female, and an even sadder truth is that most of them are either nudes or fairy tale characters. Recognising the achievements of successful, historical and modern women provides young girls with female role models, which is incredibly important for their self-esteem and determination to achieve success.

Marking the countdown to 2018, the 100 year anniversary of when women first got the right to vote, Wonder Women 2017 hit Manchester in early March, the birthplace of the suffragette movement. The event explored ‘how far we have come in 100 years and how far we have yet to go’. Brought to us by the People’s History Museum and Creative Tourist, theatre performances and exhibitions showcased the rapidly changing radical feminist movement.

Parts of the exhibition were dedicated to iconic women such as Enriqueta Rylands, the founder of John Rylands library, who famously said: ‘Behind every man is a great woman’ and Eleanor Sykes, the first female doctor and Manchester University graduate.

The ‘Our Manchester women city centre trail’ toured visitors through the city’s famous, strong, resilient and inspirational women who fought for equality, from charity worker, Dr Erinma Bell to suffragette and WW2 pacifist, Hannah Mitchell.

Events like this, including International Women’s Day have gone from strength to strength each year, empowering females by reminding them of the esteemed women who fought for the women’s right to vote and fair working conditions.

International Women’s Day is the perfect setting to push the campaign for more female statues even further and the women of Manchester took full advantage.

Emeline Pankhurst
Emmeline Pankhurst

Each year, International Women’s Day reminds the public of the work that has been done to secure equal rights for women and prompts a public debate on the inadequacies that still exist. This year, Jo Heathcote, leader of the Women’s Equality Party brought domestic abuse, sexual harassment and equality in the workplace to the forefront of the debate.

A spokesperson for the Manchester Feminist Society said: ‘This city hasn’t done enough to recognise the contribution that women have made in creating the society we live in today and the statue is a way of appreciating the role that women have played in society throughout the years.

‘It’s a big step forward for the city with regards to gender equality. We’re ecstatic that Emmeline Pankhurst has been chosen as she is such an inspiration for women all over the country. She has paved the way for generations of women to feel equal, we have a lot to thank her for, and this tribute is the least that can be done.’

The MFS are a women only organisation aiming to encourage and energise women in the city to express their ideas for change.

‘Every year we host a variety of events with the hope of empowering women of all religions and sexuality.’

This year, the theme of International Women’s Day #BeBoldForChange joined forces with Artfinder’s campaign aiming to stand up to sexism in the art world. Where most people think gender inequality in the art world isn’t an issue, the statistics tell a different story. Artfinder is campaigning to different art organisations to #BeBoldForChange and share their data on gender representation.

The people behind Artfinder believe that female artists don’t receive the same opportunities as men, the 10 richest artists in the world are all male. Artfinder wants to open up debate on the topic and make a positive change.

One campaigner told me: "Inequality is a big issue in the art world. Women aren’t taken as seriously as men. Lots of artists are really passionate about stamping out sexism in the art world. All we need to get started is the data."

Artfinder are working to make the art industry more gender inclusive and have been working with a number of feminists, including American feminist and artist, Jennifer Dalton on a collection of small projects exploring Artfinders data on gender inequality.

At the Tate Modern, London, female artists ‘represent 10 percent in the collection of British art’ and while it is suggested that there is just a lack of women artists in the industry, statistics shows that the majority are just been ignored. With the number of female artists in Britain growing, it is obvious that they aren’t being represented.

The campaign has stirred up far more passion than we expected, the issue of women being overlooked in any industry should be addressed

With a lack of female artists showcased in exhibitions throughout the country. Artfinder argues that more women only exhibitions should be introduced into museums and galleries. This topic may not seem like it should be a priority for feminists but the art world is missing out on lots of artistic talent.

"There is no parity, people say they can’t find any good female artists, if there were women only exhibitions there would be no excuse for such inequality in the industry."

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