Statues of limitation
COUNTLESS statues commemorating historical figures dot the streets of London. But there is a conspicuous absence from the capital’s bronze, marble and stone population, City decision-makers have heard.
Aside from a “few old queens,” there are very few monuments to women in the city, common councilman Edward Lord says.
He proposed to the City of London’s Court of Common Council on Thursday June 21 that statues of historic female figureheads from the City of London’s history be erected in the Square Mile.
He noted the irony that the deciding votes would be cast by a council sitting at London’s Guildhall that is in 2018 four-fifths male.
Cllr Lord proposed the statues should be commissioned to mark this year’s Suffragette centenary, marking 100 years since the movement won some women their right to vote.
He noted research this year showed there were more “Steves” and “Davids” leading FTSE 100 companies than there were women or ethnic minorities at the helm.
“One questions whether if the suffragettes with us still today, whether they would be satisfied of the outcomes since they led 100 years ago,” Cllr Lord said. “I suspect they would not.”
He proposed the Corporation pay for statues of pioneering political women from its past.
“Those were women who did not find it easy to find it easy to get to the roles they had,” he said.
He suggested one should be of Edwina Coven, the City’s first female chief commoner in 1987, who he said should really have been first female Lord Mayor.
She was elected to represent her ward as Alderman three times.
Three times the Court of Aldermen vetoed the appointment, Cllr Lord said.
“This is recent history, that is the late 1970s – that is not something that happened 50 to 100 years ago,” he said.
Common councilman Anne Fairweather addressed his proposition, saying she supported the concept of more public commemorations of women, but: added “I don’t think a majority of men should approve how we celebrate women’s history in this city.”
Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing’s memorial of Suffragist Millicent Fawcett was erected this year, becoming the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square.
Cllr Fairweather said historians should be consulted and noted women had traded in London’s heart for hundreds of years, in goods like fish, silk and ales.
“You only have to walk through the Guildhall food hall to see what today’s city workers look like… we need to be open and more diverse in what we are doing,” she said.
The council voted to approve Cllr Lord’s proposal, and moved Cllr Freeman’s amendment that it include “other depictions” to investigate options beyond statues.
Pioneering – a monument to Suffragist and campaigner Millicent Fawcett was unveiled in Parliament Square in April, joining 11 male statues in the square