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.

Women suffragettes in the United Kingsom
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Women suffragettes in the United Kingsom
UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1754: Millicent Fawcett (born Garrett - 1947-1929) English feminist, for 50 years a leader of the movement for women's suffrage. Sister of the pioneer woman physician Elizabeth Garrett Anderson: wife of Henry Fawcett, the blind radical politician. From The Cabinet Portrait Gallery (London, 1890-1894). Woodburytype after photograph by W & D Downey. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)
circa 1900: Male and female members of the women's suffrage movement on a protest march through London. (Photo by F J Mortimer/Getty Images)
Christabel Pankhurst (born 1880), suffragette leader, is shown in her London office.
(Original Caption) England: Mrs. Pankhurst has just left London accompanied by Miss Christopher St. John and Miss Craig, daughter of Ellen Terry. The car is driven by Miss Vera Holmes as it left Kingsway.
(Original Caption) England: Woman Suffrage is so taken for granted today that it is hard to realize that these women are wearing prison garb for their part in fighting for it. Arrested in disorders which went with agitation for Suffrage before the war, these women are lined up for transport to Holloway prison in London.
Arrest of Suffragette Dora Thewlis in 1907, outside Buckingham Palace in London (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
Emmeline Pankhurst is led away by a policeman after leading a group of suffragettes in an attempt to present a petition to the King at Buckingham Palace. (Photo by � Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Votes For Women (Photo by � Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Decorated Horse Bus with Suffragettes and Posters, 1913 (Photo by � Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Women march to commemorate the first suffragette to be arrested in London. (Photo by � Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Ms Pankhurst addresses a mainly male crowd near the soldiers memorial during a Central hall by-election in London. Ca. 1910. (Photo by Hulton-Deutsch/Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images)
Suffragettes form a part of Emily Davison's funeral procession through London. She was a fellow campaigner who was trampled to death when, as a protest gesture, she tried to catch the reins of King George V's horse as it ran in the 1913 Epsom Derby. (Photo by � Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
(Original Caption) Suffragette Procession With Banners. (Photo by � Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
Mrs Baines addresses a mass rally of suffragettes at Trafalgar Square, London. (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Women's struggle for voting rights: Two Suffragette in attracting support in a simple residential district of London.- Published by 'Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung' 17/1907- 08/09.1906 (Photo by ullstein bild/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

"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.

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