First Woman Is Honored With Statue in London's Parliament Square

Photo Credit: Getty Images
Photo Credit: Getty Images

On Sunday, British Prime Minister Theresa May announced that suffragist Millicent Garrett Fawcett will be honored with a statue in London’s Parliament Square. She will be the first woman to join the ranks of those commemorated there.


Great Britain has had no shortage of female leaders. Queen Elizabeth has reigned longer than any other monarch on the globe—she just recently surpassed Queen Victoria’s extensive rule from 1837 until her death in 1901. And of course, the country currently has a female Prime Minister. Yet as the New York Times reports, Parliament Square has so far been limited to the likenesses of men.

Now Fawcett, who founded the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies in 1897, will join Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Abraham Lincoln, and other illustrious figures from political history.

Fawcett, said Prime Minister May, “continues to inspire the battle against injustices of today...It is right and proper that she is honored in Parliament Square alongside former leaders who changed our country. Her statue will stand as a reminder of how politics only has value if it works for everyone in society.”

In Great Britain, all women gained the right to vote in 1928 (in 1918, suffrage was granted to women over 30 who were either married to or members of the Local Government Register). Fawcett died in 1929, at the age of 82.

In addition to Fawcett, author Jane Austen will receive national commemoration this year when her image is added to the 10 pound note. She will replace Charles Darwin. A quote from Austen’s famous novel, Pride and Prejudice, will be featured on the bill: “I declare after all there is no enjoyment like reading!” Time will tell if it will receive proper attribution; after all, you may recall that this remark is uttered by the loathsome Miss Bingley in an effort to flirt with Mr. Darcy. Perhaps it’s better if we overlook these details.

The honors bestowed upon Fawcett and Austen have been met with warm sentiment. Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society—a women’s rights charity inspired by the suffragist—said, “Her contribution was great, but she has been overlooked and unrecognized until now. By honoring her, we also honor the wider suffrage movement.”



Another suffragette has a superb plaque within Parliament, itself secretly (and illegally) placed there by the wonderful late MP Tony Benn.