More Monuments to Women
In 2016, Caroline Criado-Perez, OBE- the writer and campaigner who fought to get Jane Austen on a bank note - analysed the gender make-up of the statues listed in the UK national database of the Public Monuments and Sculpture Association.
17%-21% of monuments are women
< 9% of monuments are named women
She discovered that of the 925 statues recorded, only 158 of those were women. Of these 158, almost half were fictional figures, 14 were of the Virgin Mary and 46 were of royalty. That left only 25 statues of historical, non-royal women in the UK. There were 65 male politicians recorded by the PMSA in public spaces around the UK, and zero female politicians.
“Zero female politicians”
More recently BBC’s Reality check ‘How many UK statues are of women’ (published in April 2018) stated, according to their own research, of the 828 statues recorded, 174 of them were female - around one in five. Looking at named women, rather than nameless female figures, whittles the figure down to 80.
Even among the 80 female figures with names, 15 are mythical or fictional.
In contrast, of 534 statues of men, 422 of them are named and 38 of them are royal. In total, there were 66 fictional female statues compared with 16 fictional males. These fictional men were more likely to be soldiers on war memorials while many female figures were nudes and nymphs. There were other statuary depictions of women alongside men, but almost all of them are allegorical or generic images, rather than honouring a specific woman for her achievements.
“Queen Victoria is the woman most commonly memorialised in the UK”
Things are changing though. Public statues to the great women of the UK have been low for many years, but recent statues erected to key women of the Women's Suffrage Movement is beginning to change that.
According to Anthony McIntosh, Public Sculpture Manager at Art UK, 'erection last year of several statues to key women involved with the suffrage's movement does not only pay homage to those figures, but also these statues were erected in towns, where they had particular significance’.
He continues, ‘the statues erected this year, to commemorate prominent individuals in the campaign for women’s suffrage, are important for several reasons. Firstly, these strikingly evocative portraits honour the bravery and determination demonstrated by these remarkable women, and must also be seen to commemorate the enormous contribution by thousands of other like-minded women, from all social classes, who took an active and often militant role in the campaigns. They are also significant because they contribute to redressing the balance with regard to the representation of influential women of history in public sculpture’.
Examples of statues erected to key women of the Women's Suffrage Movement can be found in several cities:
Millicent Fawcett was erected at the Parliament Squareon 24th April 2018
Florence Nightingaleat St James’s
Virginia Woolf's statue in Bloomsbury
Pankhurst'sstatue outside the Houses of Parliament
The statue of Millicent Fawcett was a particularly momentous occasion because it was the first monument to a woman to be erected at that site. It is cast in bronze at one-and-half times life size and was designed by female artist Gillian Wearing.
Millicent is depicted holding a banner that reads: 'COURAGE CALLS TO COURAGE EVERYWHERE'. This quote is taken from a speech that she made in 1920 that referenced the death of Emily Wilding Davison in 1913. The plinth carries photo-etchings of 52 key figures, women and men, who were active in the fight for women’s suffrage.
Emmeline Pankhurst by West Sussex-based sculptorHazel Reeves – unveiled on 14th December 2018 to coincide with the 100-year anniversary and in St Peter’s Square in the heart of Manchester.
Hazel talks about the 'sense of responsibility' in capturing the essence of this remarkable woman in the work. The statue is the result of a campaign that began in 2014 and the selection of Emmeline Pankhurst as the subject of the work was made through public vote from a list of twenty 'inspiring' Mancunian women. Apart from commemorating this exceptional woman from Manchester’s history, the statue is also important because at the moment, 16 of the 17 statues in the city centre are of men – the only exception is a statue of Queen Victoria unveiled in 1901.
A statue of Mary Barbour, the political activist, is being unveiled in Govan, Glasgow.
“There are currently more public statues of named animals in Edinburgh than women.”
The statue of Greyfriar’s Bobby, the loyal Skye terrier who famously mourned at his master’s grave for 14 years, is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city – even though it has been claimed that the story was a hoax. Along with Wojtek the Bear and the unusually-named Bum the Dog, Bobby completes a trio of statues to named animals in Edinburgh that outnumbers those to the city’s women (four named animals if you include Scott's dog, Maida, who is included in his monument).
Edinburgh isn’t the only city with a lack of public sculptures of women, and several campaigns are underway to install more, prompted partly by the centenary this year of some women gaining the right to vote.
Cardiff's first statue of a named woman forgotten to history is to be decided by a public vote. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-46508394
Five women have been shortlisted for the artwork which will be placed outside BBC Wales' new headquarters at Central Square.
The women, none of whom are still living, are Cranogwen, Lady Rhondda, Elizabeth Andrews, Elaine Morgan and Betty Campbell.
More information about the five contenders:
Helen Molyneux - then chair of the Institute of Welsh Affairs – stated that ‘the statue project is an extraordinary way of making female success 'ordinary' - something not to be commented on as a rare and precious thing. To give our girls - and our boys - images of successful, inspiring womenthat they see as part of the fabric of where they live, because eventually to be a successful woman is nothing noteworthy’.
“The statue project is an extraordinary way of making female success ordinary”
Another statue, of the suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, was unveiled in Carlisle Park, Morpeth on 11th September 2018.
The statue of Emily Wilding Davison in Morpeth was created by the well-known County Durham-based sculptor Ray Lonsdale. As is usual with Lonsdale’s sculpture, it is created from welded steel. The statue depicts Emily tipping over a bowl of food, in the knowledge that going on hunger strike would result in her being brutally force fed.
Other projects are ongoing for statues to Nancy Astor in Plymouth, the first woman to take up an elected seat in the House of Commons, and one of Barbara Castle MP in Blackburn.
According to Anthony McIntosh, the Art UK database will eventually make it possible, for the very first time, to search a national database of public sculpture and to discover not only the number of statues of women from history, but also the location of those statues.
A report written by
Dr Klairi Angelou for PMSA
Edited for publication by
DOWNLOAD THE REPORT AS A PDF BY CLICKING HERE
The main sources of information for this report were the PMSA database, Art UK's The Sculpture Project and BBC research.
You can search the Art UK sculpture database here: https://artuk.org/discover/artworks/view_as/grid/search/work_type:sculpture/page/2
The PMSA’s partnership with Art UK will see information on more than 100,000 sculptures (from inside public collections and outdoors in the nation’s open spaces) being available and free to access online by 2020. At which point, we will be able to give much more precise information about the number of statues of women in the UK. In the meantime, check out the links below for interesting online articles on the same subject.