Suffragist to be first woman statue in Britain's Parliament Square

LONDON, April 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - British votes for women campaigner Millicent Fawcett is to become the first woman to be honored with a statue in London's Parliament Square.

Fawcett, who formed the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies in 1897, spent decades advocating for equal rights including voting rights and access to higher education.

The idea for the statue gained momentum following an online petition which garnered more than 80,000 signatures and was backed by Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling, actress Emma Watson and London mayor Sadiq Khan.

"The example Millicent Fawcett set during the struggle for equality continues to inspire the battle against the burning injustices of today," Prime Minister Theresa May said in a statement.

"It is right and proper that she is honored in Parliament Square alongside former leaders who changed our country. Her statue will stand as a reminder of how politics only has value if it works for everyone in society."

Fawcett led a peaceful campaign for equal rights including petitions, lobbying members of parliament and non-violent protests. The movement gave rise to the more radical suffragettes, whose tactics included hunger strikes, arson and bomb attacks.

Britain granted some women the right to vote in 1918, but it wasn't until 1928 that all women had the same voting rights as men.

"We are delighted that Millicent Fawcett, the woman who led the constitutional campaign for votes for women, will finally be honored," said Sam Smethers, chief executive of the Fawcett Society which campaigns for women's rights.

"A statue of her in Parliament Square will be a fitting tribute. Her contribution was great but she has been overlooked and unrecognized until now."

There are 11 statues of men in Parliament Square. Fawcett will be honored alongside historic figures like British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, Indian independence hero Mahatma Gandhi and former South African President and anti-apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela.