On Tuesday April 24th 2018 a statue of Suffrage Campaigner, Millicent Fawcett, was unveiled to the public in Parliament Square. Fawcett’s statue is the first female addition to the collection of statues in Parliament Square, which include Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela.
But who was Millicent Fawcett?
Millicent Fawcett was one of the most prominent voices of the suffrage movement of the early 20th century, helping women to gain their right to vote in elections. As leader of the NUWSS (National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies) she advocated moderate and diplomatic attempts to win women the vote.
As a Suffragist, her tactics contrasted the Suffragette movement, who often used more violent and high profile techniques to fight for women’s right to vote. Millicent felt that the Suffragettes were alienating Members of Parliament (and the general public), and subsequently putting them off the idea of supporting votes for women.
I had no doubt whatever that what was right for me and the NUWSS was to keep strictly to our principle of supporting our movement only by argument, based on common sense and experience and not by personal violence or lawbreaking of any kind. – Millicent Fawcett
By 1913 the NUWSS was the most popular arm of the suffrage campaign, the group organised speeches and debates in support of women’s suffrage and lobbied politicians to introduce suffrage bills into Parliament. Fawcett worked particularly closely with John Stuart Mill MP, an early advocate of women’s suffrage, who was the first MP to call for female suffrage in the Commons.
Aside from her suffrage campaigning, Fawcett also lead the British government’s commission to South Africa to investigate conditions in the concentration camps that had been created there in the wake of the Second Boer War. Fawcett also campaigned on other issues such as preventing child abuse and child marriage. She was also a carer for her husband Henry who was blinded by an accident.
Today, the Fawcett Society works in Millicent’s name to tackle the issue of women as minority voice in politics, boardrooms, and in the editorials of media.