24/04/2018 15:26 BST | Updated 24/04/2018 16:17 BST

Millicent Fawcett Statue Is 'Absolutely Massive' For Women And Girls, Say Female MPs

'Millicent Fawcett fought for us to matter in this place, and we fought for her to matter in history.'

Standing in the shadow of the newly-unveiled statue of suffragist leader Millicent Fawcett - the first figure of a woman erected in Parliament Square - female MPs today heralded the addition as an “absolutely massive” step for women and girls.

Tuesday morning saw hundreds of people gather in the square - which was adorned with the colours of the suffragist and suffragette movements - to catch a glimpse of the bronze statue, created by Turner Prize-winning artist Gillian Wearing.

Bookended by speeches from the Prime Minister and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, the unveiling of the statue - which depicts Fawcett holding a placard reading “Courage calls to courage everywhere” - sparked raucous applause from the audience.

Theresa May - only the second woman to lead the UK - told crowds she “would not be here today” without the achievements of Fawcett. 

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Millicent Fawcett has become the first women celebrated in Parliament Square with a statue.
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Emily Thornberry, Sadiq Khan, Jeremy Corbyn, Dawn Butler, Diane Abbott, Harriet Harman stand in front of the statue by Gillian Wearing.

The effigy of the legendary campaigner is the result of a campaign by activist Caroline Criado Perez, who is also responsible for putting Jane Austen on British banknotes.

“It seems like something small to be so grateful about,” said Labour MP Jess Phillips, who gathered other female politicians for a photo next to the statue.

“But Millicent Fawcett fought for us to matter in this place, and we fought for her to matter in history.

Millicent Fawcett fought for us to matter in this place, and we fought for her to matter in history Jess Phillips, Labour MP

“My children come to Parliament all the time,” Phillips said. “It’s absolutely massive for me to walk out here and eat sandwiches on the grass with my sons and for them not just to think that history looks like one thing and that one sort of person is worth celebrating.

“So for little girls running around here today, that statue is entirely for them. The statue is for them to look up to and think: ‘I could do that’.”

“It’s a message that we as a society value everyone,” Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn told journalists. “Young women will have just the same opportunities as young men.” 

Students Trinitee Boailey and Georgina Hodges, both 17, said they had already been inspired by the memorial.

HuffPost UK
Trinitee Boailey and Georgina Hodges said they had already been inspired by the effigy.
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Energy Secretary Claire Perry (left) and Home Secretary Amber Rudd take a selfie at the unveiling.

“For me it represents opportunity,” Boailey told HuffPost UK after the ceremony. “The women’s vote was just a step in the right direction and it opened so many other doors.”

“I think it’s a really powerful symbol of the liberation women have received over the last 100 years,” Hodges added.

But Dawn Butler, shadow women and equalities secretary, said it was important to make sure “all kinds of women” are represented in public spaces, adding that she hopes the Fawcett statue will be a “turning point”.

It’s great that we have got this statue of Millicent Fawcett here in Parliament Square and just across the road we have got the first named statue of a black woman in Mary Seacole,” the Labour MP told HuffPost UK.

“It’s time to value women of all different kinds - of white women, of Asian women, of black women, of disabled women, of working class women.

“All women played a part - a valuable part - in our society, in our country’s history, and it’s about time we recognised that.

“I don’t want in 50 years time for anyone to be walking through the corridors of power, or walking through this square, or walking anywhere, and not seeing a representation of themselves as if they don’t matter, or as if they didn’t matter.”