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Mayor marks 100 years of women's right to vote

MILESTONE: Women's suffrage

THE MAYOR of London, Sadiq Khan, today (Feb 6) revealed that artist Gillian Wearing’s Millicent Fawcett statue is set to feature names and portraits of women and men who were central to the suffrage movement.

Later this spring, the statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square will be unveiled, the first-ever monument to a woman to stand within the central London location.

On the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act (Feb 6), a landmark victory which gave the first women the right to vote, Sadiq Khan revealed the names of the 59 women and men who will feature on the plinth of the statue. They were all people who dedicated themselves to women’s suffrage and, through their campaigning, helped secure the vote.

To celebrate and highlight the contribution made by the women and men featured on the statue, a specially-commissioned exhibition is taking place in Trafalgar Square today to mark the centenary of the 1918 Representation of the People Act.

The exhibition titled ‘Make a Stand’ features life-sized images of men and women included on the plinth of the statue, with images sourced from the Museum of London, LSE, the National Portrait Gallery, the Women’s Library and from other archives and private collections.

The list was compiled by a group of historians, specialists in Women’s History and Suffragette history, the artist Gillian Wearing OBE and a curator from the 14-18 NOW programme with the Mayor’s Office. The names are representative of the geographic, economic and cultural spread of people who made women's suffrage a possibility after many years of campaigning.

Alongside the photographic figures there will be handmade cloth banners featuring iconic slogans of the campaign for the vote, such as ‘deeds not words’. The figures are set against the backdrop of Trafalgar Square, which 100 years ago was an important location for many of the rallies and marches that took place in the struggle to secure the right to vote.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “6 February marks an important moment in the history of our city - 100 years since the 1918 Representation of the People Act was passed which gave the first women the right to vote.

"As part of our #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign I’m really proud to unveil the women and men whose names and portraits will be etched on the plinth of the Millicent Fawcett statue – which will be the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square.

“The plinth will include well-known figures of the suffrage movement as well as those that are less well known. This is an important step in ensuring we highlight the contribution to gender equality made by these 59 women and men.”

Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries, Justine Simons, OBE, said: “One hundred years ago today, women who campaigned for the right to vote secured a landmark victory against a system that denied them their fundamental democratic rights. To mark this historic achievement, I am delighted we can announce the names of the 59 women and men who will feature on Gillian Wearing’s statue of Millicent Fawcett.

"These people fought tirelessly for women’s right to vote and while some of the names are well known, others have been too often overlooked. Through Gillian’s work we will shine a light on their role and inspire Londoners in our continued fight for gender equality.

“The campaign for gender equality has achieved so much over the past 100 years but it is clear there is still a long way to go. We want to honour this moment by bringing these key figures out of the archives in to Trafalgar Square, on the same spot where major speeches took place 100 years ago. This year, together with organisations and industries across London, we will spread the message that Behind Every Great City are women and girls from all walks of life, contributing hugely to the success of our capital.”

While the 100 year anniversary of women's right to vote reminds us of how far we've come, it also serves as an indication of how far we have to go - as echoed by the Mayor and Simmons.

Speaking to The Voice at the exhibition launch, Simmons said: "I think the thing that really strikes me today is that it is a 100 years on and the job hasn't finished. We've got to finish the job. We look back and we're incredulous at this idea that women couldn't vote. Imagine the EU referendum and half of the population not being able to vote."

Mr. Khan added: "I think we should be worried. For the first time in my lifetime we're in danger of going backwards with people who call us 'snowflakes', 'social justice warriors' and a majority of terms that are used to degrade us for protesting for gender equality.

"Unless we're careful, the rise of of narrow populist movements around the world will undo some of the progress - that's why we can't be complacent and we've got to make sure we keep moving forward."

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