Located in Tavistock Square in Bloomsbury, this bronze bust of writer and literary pioneer Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) was erected in 2004.

Commissioned by the Virginia Woolf Society of Great Britain, it is a copy of a bust of Woolf sculpted by Stephen Tomlin in 1931 (there is a 1953 version of the work, apparently the only 3D representation of Woolf taken from life, in the National Portrait Gallery) and was set on a Portland stone plinth designed by Stephen Barkway.

A plate on the plinth explains that Woolf, a central figure in the Bloomsbury group of writers and artists, lived from 1924 to 1939 in a house which once stood on the south side of Tavistock Square, the period when her greatest novels were written.

It also features a quote from Woolf concerning the writing of her novel To the Lighthouse – “Then one day walking round Tavistock Square I made up, as I sometimes make up my books, To the Lighthouse; in a great, apparently involuntary, rush.”

There are, incidentally, plans to erect a new life-sized, seated statue of Woolf at Richmond on the bank of the River Thames. Woolf and her husband Leonard lived for a time the riverside borough at Hogarth House (where they also ran their publishing company).

Mock-ups have been created by artist Laury Dizengremel and there is a funding appeal to raise £50,000 currently underway.

PICTURE: Maureen Barlin (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Advertisements

Located at Denmark Hill in south London, this statue of Catherine Booth (1829-1890), co-founder of the Salvation Army, was apparently dedicated twice.

The first dedication took place in 1929, the centenary of her birth, and the second the following year when an accompanying statue of her husband William Booth – they stand on either side of the entrance to the Salvation Army’s William Booth Memorial Training College, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott (he also designed the statue plinths), on Champion Park  – was also being dedicated.

The work of George Edward Wade, the bronze statue depicts Booth in her Salvation Army uniform – complete with bonnet – and has her holding a Bible pressed to her heart and reaching out with an open hand. Her husband William is also shown in his uniform, preaching from an open the Bible.

An inscription on the granite plinth below describes her “The Army Mother”. The larger than life statue was cast at the Morris Art Bronze Foundry.

There are, incidentally, exact replicas of both statues in Mile End Road in London’s east. Donated by the women of the Salvation Army in the US, that of William was unveiled in 1979 and that of Catherine a later addition, unveiled in 2015 on the 150th anniversary of the creation of the Salvation Army.

The statues are located close to the site where the Booths commenced the work of the Salvation Army in July, 1865.

PICTURE: R Sones (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0/Image cropped)

Located on Paddington Green, this statue of 18th century theatrical luminary Sarah Siddons (1755-1831) was unveiled by fellow thespian Sir Henry Irving on 14th June, 1897, who apparently noted that, Shakespeare aside, Siddons was the first actor to be immortalised with a statue in London.

It is also said to be the first outdoor statue erected in London of a non-royal woman.

Seated in a pose apparently inspired by Joshua Reynolds’ 1784 painting, Mrs Siddons as the Tragic Muse (now in California), the marble statue, which sits on a Portland stone plinth, is the work of French sculptor Leon-Joseph Chavailliaud.

The location was apparently selected due to the fact Siddons lived at Westbourne Green from 1805 to 1817 and is buried in St Mary’s Churchyard next to Paddington Green.

The Grade II-listed statue, which was paid for by public subscription, is sadly now need of a makeover – Mrs Siddons is missing a nose.

There is, incidentally, another, earlier, statue of Mrs Siddons in London – this larger-than-life work, is located in the chapel of St Andrew in Westminster Abbey’s north transept.

The work of sculptor Thomas Campbell, it features a standing Mrs Siddons, and dates from 1845.

PICTURE: Stephencdickson (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

A memorial stone commemorating Nelson Mandela was dedicated at Westminster Abbey on the centenary of his birth this week.

Mandela, who spent 27 years in South African prisons and played a key role in bringing an end to apartheid before serving as President between 1994 and 1999, died in 2013.

The stone, which is located in the floor of the abbey’s nave, was dedicated in a ceremony on 18th July attended by Nomatemba Tambo, the High Commission for South Africa, and Zamaswazi Dlamini-Mandela, granddaughter of Nelson Mandela.

The stone, made of black Belgian marble, was designed and cut by Nicholas Stone. It bears an inscription reading ‘Nelson Mandela 1918-2013’ encircled by the words ‘reconciliation’ and ‘forgiveness’.

Mandela is the first South African to be commemorated with a memorial stone in Westminster Abbey. But a statue of South African martyr Manche Masemola stands over the church’s western entrance and Joost de Blank, former Archbishop of Cape Town, is buried outside St George’s Chapel.

A service of thanksgiving for the life of Mandela was held at the Abbey on 3rd March 2014.

Other monuments to Nelson Mandela in London include a bust located in South Bank and a statue located in Parliament Square.

PICTURE: Courtesy of Dean & Chapter of Westminster


Since 1991, a statue of Dr Alfred Salter (as well as his daughter Joyce and cat) had sat on the south bank of the River Thames in Bermondsey.

But after the statue of Dr Salter – MP for Bermondsey for many years – was stolen in 2011 (presumably for scrap value) and the statues of Joyce and the cat subsequently put into storage, it was decided to reassemble the group but this time adding in a new figure – that of Dr Salter’s wife Ada, whose story was certainly as significant as his.

A social reformer, environmentalist and pacifist, Ada Salter (1866-1942) was co-founder and president of the Women’s Labour League, one of the first women councillors in London (she was elected to Bermondsey in 1909) and, on being appointed Mayor of Bermondsey in 1922, the first woman mayor in London and the first Labour woman mayor in Britain.

In 1931, she was elected chair of the National Gardens Guild. Together the couple, who were both Quakers, dedicated much of their lives to helping the people of Bermondsey, regenerating slums, building model housing and planting thousands of trees.

A campaign was subsequently launched to raise funds to replace the statue of Dr Salter and install a new one of Ada and, on raising £120,000 (the £60,000 raised was matched by Southwark Council), artist Diane Gorvin, who had designed the original statue of Dr Salter, was commissioned to make them.

The resultant statues – known collectively as ‘The Salter Statues’ and ‘Dr Salter’s Daydream’ – were unveiled where the previous grouping had been found at Bermondsey Wall East near the Angel pub, in November, 2014.

While Dr Salter sits on a granite bench looking toward the river and his daughter Joyce, who leans against the river wall watched by the family cat, Ada stands nearby – also looking at her daughter – but with a spade in her hand.

Writes the artist: “The idea was to show Dr Salter in old age remembering  his young daughter when she was still alive. Ada is represented with a spade as she was so instrumental in tree and planting schemes for Bermondsey. Her left hand is designed to hold real flowers. It was important to celebrate the work of this couple who dedicated their lives to helping the local community.”

There’s a poignant aspect to the statues in that Joyce, the couple’s only child, had died at the age of eight from scarlet fever in 1910.

Ada Salter also has a garden named after her in Southwark Park.

PICTURE: Top – Loz Pycock (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 – image cropped and lightened); Right – Marc Pether-Longman (licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND-2.0); Below – Steve James (licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0).

The origins of this short and narrow City of London laneway, which runs between Fenchurch Street and Great Tower Street, have nothing to do with minced meat of any kind.

Rather it comes from the fact – according to 16th century historian John Stow – that houses along here were once the property of the nuns of St Helen’s Bishopsgate. The medieval word for a nun was ‘mynchen’ – ‘mincing’ is merely a corruption of that word.

Historically, Mincing Lane was known for spice and tea trading and was also apparently the centre of the opium trade in London as well as hosting businesses connected to the slave trade.

The Clothworkers Company is located in Dunster Court, just off Mincing Lane – the current building, which opened in 1958, is the sixth on the site.

Among more modern buildings hosted in the one-way lane today is the Minster Court complex, dating from the early Nineties, which features in the forecourt facing out to the lane, Althea Wynne’s sculpture of three larger than life-size bronze horses, apparently nicknamed “Dollar”, “Yen” and “Stirling” (pictured). The building featured in the 1996 film, 101 Dalmatians.

PICTURE: Mike Quinn / Wild horses wouldn’t drag me in here / CC BY-SA 2.0.

Located in Gordon Square Gardens in King’s Cross, this bust commemorates British agent Noor Inayat Khan (1914-1944), who was executed during World War II.

Khan, who was of Indian descent (in fact, a direct descendent of Tipu Sultan of Mysore), had escaped to England from her home in Paris after the fall of France during World War II. She joined the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) in November, 1940, and in 1942 was recruited to join the Special Operations Executive (SOE) as a radio operator.

In June, 1943, she became the first female radio operator to be flown into occupied France. There she worked for the “Prosper” resistance network under the code name Madeleine but in October she was betrayed and arrested by the Gestapo.

Sent to Germany the following month, she was held in prison before, in September 1944, Khan and three other female SOE agents were transferred to Dachau concentration camp where they were shot on the 13th of that month. Her last word was said to have been “Liberte”.

Khan, dubbed the “Spy Princess” by her biographer, was posthumously awarded the George Cross and the French Croix de Guerre.

The bust of her in Gordon Square Gardens was unveiled by Princess Anne, the Princess Royal, on 8th November, 2012. A message from her brother Hidayat Inayat-Khan was read out at the unveiling.

The bust is believed to be the first stand-alone memorial to an Asian woman in the UK. The work of Karen Newman, it was commissioned by the Noor Inayat Khan Memorial Trust.

Various inscriptions on the bust plinth provide biographical details and also record that Noor lived nearby and “spent some quite time in this garden”.

PICTURE: Matt Brown (licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Sculpture in the City is back in the Square Mile, this year featuring 18 artworks ranging from Jean-Luc Moulène’s Body, an aerodynamic tribute to the automobile as sculpture (located in Undershaft – pictured above), to Thomas J Price’s Numen (Shifting Votive) One & Two, an exploration of the ancient Greek, Roman and Egyptian traditions of monumental sculpture (located under The Leadenhall Building – pictured below). Other sculptural works included in this, the 8th edition of the annual event, include Juliana Cerceira Leite’s Climb, a three metre tall obelisk made from the inside out (located in Mitre Square – pictured second below), Sarah Lucas’ Perceval, a life-size horse and cart evocative of the traditional china ornaments that once took pride of place on British mantlepieces (located in Cullum Street – pictured third below), and Karen Tang’s Synapsid, a vivid globular sculpture which brings to mind sci-fi invasion scenarios (outside Fenchurch Street station – pictured fourth below). And, for the first time, the event also includes two sound projects: Marina Abramovic’s Tree, which those passing near a tree at 99 Bishopsgate with insistent, repetitive and distorted birdsong, and Miroslaw Balka’s The Great Escape which, located in Hartsthorn Alley, features the film of the same name’s theme song being whistled repeatedly in a series of slightly different renditions. The display can be seen until April next year – for a map of all the locations, head to www.sculptureinthecity.org.uk. ALL PICTURES: Nick Turpin.

A bird bath and drinking fountain located in Victoria Embankment Gardens, this monument dedicated to Lady Henry Somerset – a key temperance campaigner – was unveiled in the late 19th century.

Lady (Isabella) Somerset (1851-1921) was president of the British Women’s Temperance Association from 1890 to 1903, president of World’s Women’s Christian Temperance Union between 1989 and 1906, and founder of a farm colony for inebriate women near Reigate in Surrey.

The monument isn’t actually a true memorial – Lady Somerset was still alive when the bronze, sculpted by GE Wade was unveiled on 29th May, 1897. It had been commissioned by the “Children of The Loyal Temperance Legion” to commemorate Lady Somerset’s “work done for the temperance cause”.

The monument – which depicts a young girl holding out a basin – was Grade II-listed in 1958.

The original statue, however, was stolen in 1971 after it was sawn off at the feet. The statue which now stands there is actually a replica – by Philomena Davidson Davis – installed in 1999.

As well as the dedication, the rough granite plinth upon which the statue stands bears the rather odd inscription (given Lady Somerset’s campaigning), “I was thirsty and ye gave me drink.”

PICTURE: Top – Matt Brown (licensed under CC BY 2.0); Right –  Another Believer (licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0)

Located on the north side of Lincoln’s Inn Fields, this rather elaborate monument commemorates Margaret Ethel MacDonald (1870-1911), wife of the first British Labour Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, a noted feminist and social activist.

The Grade II-listed monument, which was unveiled in December, 1914 – three years after her death (which occurred before her husband became PM), stands not far from the flat where she lived with her husband and their children at Number 3.

It features a granite seat atop which is a bronze group of sculptures of nine children gathered around the kneeling MacDonald – the work of Richard Goulden. At the top of the seat – just below the sculptures, is a dedication to MacDonald “who spent her life in helping others”.

On the rear is a plaque containing biographical details and further dedication ending with the words that she “took no rest from doing good”.

PICTURE: mapa mundi (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

 


We’re kicking off a new Wednesday series this week and in honour of the fact that a statue of Millicent Fawcett became the first commemorating a female to be erected in Parliament Square earlier this year, we’re looking at 10 other memorials – lesser known ones – to women in London. 

First up, it’s a Grade II-listed monument in Tavistock Square Gardens commemorating Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake (1865-1925), the first female surgeon in Britain and pioneer of new surgical methods treating cancers of the cervix and rectum. She was also dean of the London School Of Medicine For Women.

This double-sided monument, which sits above a curved seat, features two busts of Dame Aldrich-Blake, both holding a book. On the sides of the monument are the depictions of the Rod of Asclepius – an intertwined staff and serpent long used as a symbol for the medical profession.

The base and seat were designed by Edwin Lutyens – the man behind the Cenotaph – and the identical bronze busts were the work of Arthur George Walker.

The monument was apparently erected in 1926, a year after Dame Aldrich-Blake’s death, in a rather fitting location, Tavistock Square is the location of the headquarters of the British Medical Association in BMA House.

As well as listing her achievements in the world of medicine, the monument bears the rather uplifting inscription: “The path of the just is as the shining light”.

PICTURE: Top – Stu’s Images (licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0); Right – Robin Sones (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)  

As we reported last Thursday, a series of specially designed new benches have been rolled out across the City of London as part of this month’s London Festival of Architecture. We loved the designs so much, we thought we’d show you some of the others. Above is Nicholas Kirk Architects’ Money Box which, located outside London Bridge Station, is formed of 45,000 stacked pennies while immediately below is McCloy + Muchemwa’s A Bench for Everyone. Located Inside One New Change, its folded shape is designed to evoke the “memory and much-loved comforts of home furniture”. The festival runs until the end of the month. PICTURES: All images © Agnese Sanvito

Above – Mariya Lapteva’s City Ghosts which, located in front of the Royal Exchange, is inspired by the history of the area including East India House and the little shopfronts along Leadenhall Street.

Above – Maria Gasparian’s Ceramic City Bench in Bow Church Yard featuring colours inspired by the “multi-layered context of the City of London that has for centuries been a place for trade, exchange and religious diversity”.

Above – Mills Turner’s Double Bench in Fen Court has been designed to be easy to assemble and adjustable and features an “organic silhouette” which follows the natural curve of the human body.

 

A series of new “one-off” public benches are being unveiled across London as part of the month-long London Festival of Architecture currently underway in the city. Designed by emerging artists and designers and installed in partnership with the City of London Corporation and Cheapside Business Alliance, the benches include Patrick McEvoy’s doggy design, Here Lies Geoffrey Barkington (pictured), located in Jubilee Gardens in Houndsditch, Maria Gasparian’s Ceramic City Bench in Bow Church Yard, McCloy + Muchemwa’s sinuous A Bench for Everyone inside One New Change, and Nicholas Kirk Architects’ Money Box – formed of 45,000 stacked penny coins – outside London Bridge Station. The festival runs until the end of the month and there’s still a plethora of activities to take part in. For more, see www.londonfestivalofarchitecture.org. PICTURE: © Agnese Sanvito (Via LFA)

A free summer series of concerts kicks off in The Regent’s Park Bandstand this weekend in what has been described as a “new chapter” in the bandstand’s history. To be held every Sunday afternoon between 3pm and 5pm (with an extra concert to be held at the same time on the Bank Holiday of 27th August) until 2nd September, the concerts range from classic rock to big bands and jazz. Those performing include the Brixton-based South London Symphonic Winds, Regent Community Brass and the Barnes Concert Band as well as the Heroes Band – which raises funds for Help for Heroes – and Royal Academy of Music-associated acts, the Jonny Ford Jazz Quintet and Metropolitan Brass. The concerts have been organised by the Friends of Regent’s Park & Primrose Hill, working with The Royal Parks charity, the Royal Academy of Music and the Crown Estate Paving Commission, and it’s hoped they’ll become an annual fixture in the park. For more, see www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/the-regents-park.

Romania’s role in World War I is the subject of a free, temporary display at the National Army Museum in Chelsea. Romania and the Great War charts the “years of neutrality (1914-1916), the fierce battles of 1916 on the Entente side, the painful retreat to Moldavia, the striking victories of 1917 and the momentous victory of 1918, which offered a strategic foundation to the political unification of all Romanian provinces and the creation of a modern, democratic state”. Objects on show include photographs, maps, uniforms and original First World War medals. Runs until 15th July. For more, see www.nam.ac.uk.

Send all items for inclusion to exploringlondon@gmail.com.

The work of internationally renowned artist Christo, The London Mastaba floats serenely on Hyde Park’s Serpentine, despite the reported ruffled feathers of some swimmers upset over its installation in their pool.

The floating sculpture, which takes up about one per cent of the lake’s surface, is Christo’s first public sculpture created for show in the UK.

Made up of 7,506 multi-coloured and stacked barrels reaching 20 metres high, the sculpture sits on a floating platform of high-density polyethylene cubes which has been anchored into place.

The artwork’s installation coincides with an exhibition of the work of Christo and his late wife Jeanne-Claude’s at the nearby Serpentine Gallery in Kensington Gardens.

Christo & Jeanne-Claude: Barrels and The Mastaba 1958-2018 features sculptures, drawings, collages and photographs spanning more than 60 years and, according to Christo will provide “important context” for The London Mastaba.

The exhibition can be seen at the gallery until 9th September. Meanwhile, the sculpture will be floating on the Serpentine, weather permitting, until 23rd September.

And finally, the Serpentine Gallery’s annual temporary pavilion – this year the work of Mexican architect Frida Escobedo, of Taller de Arquitectura – can be seen until 7th October at the Kensington Gardens’ gallery. For more information on all three projects, see www.serpentinegalleries.org.

PICTURES: Top – The London Mastaba (pinn/licensed under CC BY-NC-ND-2.0); Right – Christo, The Mastaba (Project for London, Hyde Park, Serpentine Lake), Collage 2018: 43.1 x 55.9, Pencil, wax crayon, enamel paint, colour photograph by Wolfgang Volz, map, technical data, mylar and tape, Photo: André Grossmann © Christo 2018; Below – Serpentine Pavilion 2018, designed by Frida Escobedo, Serpentine Gallery, London © Frida Escobedo, Taller de Arquitectura, Photography © 2018 Iwan Baan

Prime Minister Theresa May (below) and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, recently attended the unveiling of the first statue commemorating a female in Parliament Square – that of Suffragist leader Dame Millicent Fawcett. The work of Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing, the statue is not only the first of a woman to grace the square outside the Houses of Parliament but also the first in the square created by a woman. Its arrival marks 100 years since women were given the right to vote in the Representation of the People Act 1918. Mrs May paid tribute to Fawcett for her role in the “long and arduous” struggle to achieve votes for women while Mr Khan pointed out that the statue would stand near that of Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela – “two other heroic leaders who campaigned for change and equality”. “There couldn’t be a better place to mark the achievements of Millicent Fawcett, in the heart of UK democracy in Parliament Square,” he said. The statue, which was funded through the Government’s £5 million Centenary Fund, was unveiled by three generations of women including Jennifer Loehnis, a descendant of Millicent Fawcett, and activist Caroline Criado Perez who led the campaign lobbying for the statue to be placed there.

PICTURES – Top – Garry Knight/Flickr (public domain); Below Number 10/Flicker (licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

News recently that Parliament Square has its first female statue (more about that in an upcoming post) so we thought it timely to consider London’s oldest statue of a female.

It’s actually of a queen – Elizabeth I – and can be found on the facade of the Church of St Dunstan-in-the-West on Fleet Street in the City of London (also home to a rather famous clock).

Believed to have been made in 1586, the statue is said to be the work of one William Kerwin and originally adorned Ludgate.

It was moved to its current position over the church’s vestry door in 1760 when Ludgate was demolished due to road widening. Along with other statues from the gate, it had been given to Sir Francis Gosling who had it placed at the church.

The statue features a rather regal looking Queen, standing formally in royal robes with sceptre and orb.

 

A life-sized copy of Lamassu, a winged deity that stood at Nineveh’s Nergal Gate from 700 BC until the so-called Islamic State destroyed it in 2015, Michael Rakowitz’s work The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist is the 12th to adorn the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square. The American artist’s work is made from 10,500 empty Iraqi date syrup cans, representative of a once-renowned industry which has been devastated by war in the Middle Eastern nation, while the use of recycled food packaging can be seen as a reference to the recycling of cannons once carried on the HMS Royal George to create the reliefs at the base of Nelson’s Column. Unveiled at the end of March by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, the work will remain on the plinth until early 2020.

PICTURE: Loz Pycock/licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

 Located on the west bank of the Thames between Waterloo and Hungerford Bridges are two separate memorials to the dramatist Sir WS Gilbert (1836-1911) and composer Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) – a partnership better known simply as Gilbert and Sullivan.

The first to be unveiled was a now Grade II-listed bronze bust of Sullivan in 1903. Located at the northern end of Victoria Embankment Gardens, it is the work of Sir William Goscombe John and, along with the bust which sits atop a pedestal, the monument features a scantily clad female muse leaning against the pillar in apparent grief.

Sheet music, a mandolin and a Pan mask all lie in a heap beside her – the discarded props of Sullivan’s profession – and on the side of the plinth are inscribed some lines from his work, The Yeoman of the Guard: “Is life a boon? If so, it must befall that Death, whene’er he call, must call too soon” (the same lines are inscribed on the sheet music).

The bronze memorial plaque to Gilbert, meanwhile, was unveiled in 1915, four years after his death. It’s attached to Charing Cross Pier on the downstream side of Hungerford Bridge and, the work of Sir George Frampton, shows Gilbert in profile relief flanked by figures of Comedy and Tragedy.

Gilbert is accompanied by an inscription which reads: “His foe was folly & his weapon wit”. A shield underneath bears a Latin inscription which translates as “I would rather die than change”.

The location of the memorials is not coincidental – the career of Gilbert and Sullivan was closely associated with the nearby Savoy Theatre, where many of their works were premiered thanks to its owner Richard D’Oyly Carte – he’s also commemorated in a memorial opposite the entrance to the Savoy nearby.

 

Now located just outside St Paul’s Cathedral at the eastern end of Carter Lane Gardens, this Gothic Victorian drinking fountain once stood near the Church of St Lawrence Jewry close by Guildhall. 

Designed by architect John Robinson and featuring bronze sculptural work by Joseph Durham, the now Grade II-listed fountain was paid for jointly by the parishes and St Lawrence and St Mary Magdalene.

One of many fountains erected from the 1850s onwards to provide free, clean water to the city’s residents, it features statues of both St Lawrence – holding the grid iron on which tradition holds he was martyred – and of St Mary Magdalene – holding a cross with a skull at her feet – set in two of four niches in an elaborate canopy. The remaining two niches, now empty, are believed to have once held the names of past benefactors of the churches.

Below the canopy is another niche, from the back of which water streams out into a dish when a button is pushed. The water stream brings an extra dimension to a relief carving depicting a scene from the Biblical book of Exodus in which Moses is striking a rock at Horeb to bring forth water while, beside him, a woman holds a cup to the lips of her child.

The fountain was originally installed to the north of St Lawrence Jewry in Church Passage in 1866 and remained there for more than a century until, in 1970, the redevelopment of Guildhall Yard meant it had to be moved. It was dismantled into about 150 pieces and put into storage in a barn in Epping with the idea that it would be re-erected.

But it wasn’t until 2010 that it underwent an extensive restoration and was placed in its current location.

PICTURE: Top – Another Believer (image cropped); Right – Jordiferrer. Both licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Women’s suffrage advocate Millicent Garrett Fawcett will become the first woman to be honoured with a statue in Westminster’s Parliament Square next month to mark the 100th anniversary of the passing of the 1918 act which gave women the vote for the first time. But who exactly was she?

Born in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, on 11th June, 1847, Millicent Garrett was the daughter of Newson Garrett, a merchant and shipowner, and his wife Louisa – the eighth of their 10 children.

At the age of 12, in 1858, she went to London with her older sister Elizabeth (who would go on to become Britain’s first female doctor) to study at a private boarding school in Blackheath. A key moment came seven years later in 1865 when she went to hear a speech by radical MP John Stuart Mills who spoke of equal rights for women.

Fawcett was deeply impacted and became actively involved in his campaign. When she was just 18, Millicent was introduced via Mills to Henry Fawcett, MP for Brighton and women’s rights activist and the two became close friends before, despite an age difference of 14 years, marrying on 23rd April, 1867. As well as caring for her husband who had been blinded in a shooting accident some 10 years before they were wed, Millicent took up a role as his secretary.

In 1868, Millicent gave birth to their only child, Philippa, and the family spent their time between two households – one in London (at 51 The Lawn on the site of what is now Vauxhall Park) and the other in Cambridge (where she later became a co-founder of Newnham College).

Meanwhile, with her husband’s encouragement, she was also pursuing her own writing career, penning the popular short book, Political Economy for Beginners, which was published in 1870, as well as becoming a well-known public speaker on a range of issues including women’s rights.

While when her husband – then Postmaster General – died of pleurisy on 6th November, 1884, Millicent temporarily withdrew from public life (it was after Henry’s death that, as per his wishes, Vauxhall Park was created on the site of his former home). But the years following saw her become increasingly engaged in activities in support of women’s suffrage.

She was involved in the formation of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies (NUWSS) in 1897 – it went on to become the largest group of its kind with 50,000 members by 1913 – and would later become its president, a post she would hold until after World War I.

Fawcett’s interests, however, also saw her involved in campaigns to curb child abuse, to end child marriage and the “white slave trade” as well as the formation of a relief fund for South African women and children affected by the Boer War (in 1901 she visited South Africa as head of a commission charged with reporting on conditions in concentration camps).

When some groups advocating for women’s suffrage started to take more violent action – which included breaking windows and hunger strikes when jailed, Fawcett argued against such militancy and remained among the moderates, convinced that women would eventually win the vote as a result of the changes taking place in society.

Suffrage activism was interrupted thanks to World War I but the role women played in support of the war effort saw opinion shift enough for, in 1918, the passing of the Representation of the People Act, which gave women aged over 30 voting rights.

In 1919, Fawcett retired from active engagement in politics. She was appointed a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire in 1925.

Fawcett witnessed the passing of an act to give women equal voting rights to men in 1928 – 10 years after the first act – before dying, at the age of 82, at her home at 2 Gower Street in Bloomsbury, London, on 5th August, 1929 (there’s a Blue Plaque on the property where she had lived for more than 45 years – pictured above). She was cremated at Golders Green but there is a memorial to both her and her husband in Westminster Abbey.

The Fawcett Society, which has carried her name since 1953, continues to fight sexism and gender inequality in the UK, campaigning on issues such as closing the gender pay gap.