Murderous millinery: bringing Emily Williamson back to life with a statue

  • Public asked to vote for their favourite design for statue
  • Campaigner for birds rights led to Plumage Act

The story of Victorian conservationist Emily Williamson had faded into history until the recent campaign of the erection of her statue in Manchester.  

Manchester Art Gallery has collaborated with the Emily Williamson Statue Campaign to allow the public to decide who will commission the statue of Emily Williamson in her honour.  

Williamson started a campaign to combating the use of exotic birds’ feathers, in the midst of the Victorian hat trend.

In 1889 she invited her friends to tea in her Didsbury home to pledge not to wear feathers. 

This led to the creation of the Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) which spent 30 years campaigning for the trade of exotic bird skins to be made illegal.


In 1921, the Plumage Act was passed forbidding anyone to trade the feathers from exotic birds.  

The campaign and Manchester Art Gallery aims to put up a lifesize bronze statue of Williamson in Fletcher Moss park in Didsbury.

A public vote will decide which artist’s design is selected for the statue. Artists in the running include Clare Abbat, Billie Bond, Laury Dizengremel and Eve Shepherd.  

The gallery has organised an exhibition to help the public understand each piece of artwork, and vote for their favourite to be adapted into a life size model.

Andrew Simcock, chair of the Emily Williamson Statue campaign, said: “Over 11,500 people have already voted in this competition and this final stage is an opportunity for the Manchester public to come and see the designs for themselves and vote for their favourite design.” 

The vote closes at midnight on 12 November with the winner will be announced at Manchester Art Gallery the next day.