Anyone walking near Parliament recently will have noticed the addition of a brand new statue of Dame Millicent Fawcett standing strong overlooking Parliament Square and the Palace of Westminster. This fantastic piece of art, and now history, was created by Gillian Wearing and is the first statue of a woman to have a place on Parliament Square.
The unveiling took place on 24 April with the Prime Minister, Mayor of London and many others attending the ceremony which celebrates this year as 100 years since some women were granted the right to vote. Millicent Fawcett was one of the most famous suffragists and was so important in helping women gain the vote 100 years ago.
Perhaps almost as famous as Millicent Fawcett is our very own Muriel Matters who lived in Hastings and stood as a candidate for our MP. I am sure she would be pleased Hastings has now had 2 female MPs serve the constituency and I am proud to be one of them. Like Millicent Fawcett, Muriel Matters was essential in the campaign to get women the vote. She became famous for chaining herself to the grille of the Ladies’ Gallery in Parliament in protest of women being forced to sit out of the view of MPs debating in the House of Commons and for flying a hot air balloon over London which had “Votes for Women” written on the side. Clearly her bold tactics worked and gained some much needed attention to the issue of women’s suffrage!
As we welcome in the warmer half of the year (finally!), we will hold our own celebrations to commemorate the Centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918. Hastings Borough Council has been working with local organisations as well as our Mayor, Cllr Judy Rogers, to plan an event which will bring together our towns in celebration of this historic milestone for equality. Everyone should keep their eyes peeled for any announcements so the event will be a success as well as hopefully a fun day out in the sun.
As women only won the right to vote 100 years ago, we must make full use of it and make our impression on public office such as by standing for the local councils – or as MP! With the local elections coming up on 3 May, it is important we all honour the legacy of Millicent Fawcett and Muriel Matters by getting out there and voting.