I have recently become involved with Carloline Criado Perez’s campaign to get a statue of Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square. As you may know, there are no statues of women there currently.
A debate in the lords on historical monuments felt like a good opportunity to raise the issue. The transcript is below.
‘I, too, thank the noble Lord, Lord Oates, for initiating this debate. As always when I do not know a noble Lord, I went to Wikipedia to see what I could find out—the collective wisdom of the internet always impresses me. The noble Lord is the fifth most influential Liberal Democrat, he may be interested to hear. The depth of information never ceases to amaze me but you may not realise that Wikipedia, the internet’s main historical resource, is 90% created and curated by men. I am going to build on what the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, said, because we do not do much better IRL, as my godchildren would say—in real life.My friend, the campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, already mentioned by the Lord Finkelstein, did an incredible audit of the statues of this country and created a database. Of 925 statues, 71 were of women, 29 of which were of Queen Victoria. There were 498 statues of non-royal historical men and only 25 of non-royal historical women. There were 43 statues of men called John. How do you become a statue if you are a woman? It helps if you are naked and it helps if you are an allegorical figure, although the allegorical figure of History was ripped down because somebody decided that she should be a bluestocking, heaven forbid, and it was decided that that was not a good idea. Half of all female statues are allegorical figures, such as Justice, nine represent Art, while there are 45 male allegorical figures.
This, to my mind, is unacceptable. You cannot be what you cannot see. Quite apart from not reflecting our broad and wonderful complex cultural history, it is depressing to think that young women walking around our country cannot see the pinnacles of achievement that have been reached by people from all walks of society and all parts of life. Men dominate all the statues of scientists, businessmen and politicians. Why not start with my own heroine, Ada Lovelace, the computer engineer? I support the noble Lord, Lord Finkelstein, 100%, but I would go further. I urge noble Lords to sign Caroline’s petition to put Millicent Fawcett in Parliament Square but I also urge the Minister to consider a profound redressing of the gender imbalance at a time when it feels so crucial that we give more examples of different ways of being to young women all over the country.’