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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

More statues needed

As a society we have been too reticent to acknowledge the role of women in building our society and our polity. Perhaps that is because we have been so male-orientated at all levels that it has been difficult for those in positions of influence to acknowledge the underlying misogyny that permeates the corridors of power and to deal with it.

I am delighted therefore that there is now a movement to commemorate the role of women in society and their achievements and that this is starting with the unveiling of a statue of suffragist Millicent Fawcett, in Parliament Square next month. As the Guardian reports, in the centenary year of women’s suffrage, government money is also being spent on a new statue of the suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, who already has a memorial in Westminster, in Manchester.

There are many more women who should be celebrated in bronze, not just politicians but writers, artists and pioneers as well. That is why I support the call by Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and his deputy, Tom Watson, who have teamed up with dozens of men, including high-profile actors, comedians and trade union leaders, to call for one of Britain’s earliest feminists to be memorialised.

They are among over 40 men signing a letter to the Guardian saying the time has come to break the “bronze ceiling” and celebrate the extraordinary life of Mary Wollstonecraft. The paper adds that signatories including Andrew Adonis and the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Vince Cable, the actors Sam West and Jason Isaacs, and the union leaders John Hannett and Tim Roache argue that she was the “first to call for gender equality, over 250 years ago”. They say that Wollstonecraft, who has been described as Britain’s first feminist, challenged philosophers and politicians at the time when she set out a vision of equality in her book.

As we celebrate women's suffrage we should be unveiling more statues to female pioneers and leaders all over the UK not just to celebrate their achievements but to start conversations that will inspire others to follow in their footsteps.
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