Manchester to have first statue of a woman since Queen Victoria

Side view of the photo-mosaic image referred to in text

“Women Like You” photo-mosaic image of Emmeline Pankhurst by artist Charlotte Newson

The news this week that Emmeline Pankhurst has been selected as the first woman to be honoured by a statue in Manchester since Queen Victoria, reminded me of an image of her that I saw at the Manchester Women’s awards in 2011. That was a photo-mosaic titled “Women Like You” by artist Charlotte Newson.

I was invited to the ceremony to present an award that had been named in honour of Kath Fry for a woman of outstanding achievement. The award was presented to Jo Wiggans, Director of Aimhigher Greater Manchester, for a significant contribution to education and/or gender equality. Aimhigher Greater Manchester was an outstanding success in raising aspirations and supporting young women from the most deprived areas of Manchester to progress to higher education, enabling them to fulfil their potential. I came across my speech on my computer when I was looking for something else and wondered about including it here but I have already blogged it on Kath’s blog about her health.

The Manchester Women’s awards and this latest decision about the public sculpture are just two examples of Manchester City Council initiatives that have been going on since the early 80s that try to address gender inequality, and which I have been looking at in chapter 5 about Equal Opportunities.

“early in 1985, the Council agreed to celebrate International Women’s Day (on 8th March) by offering small grants to women’s groups in order to put on events celebrating women’s strengths and achievements. This became an annual week-long festival – International Women’s Week (IWW) – with events happening all over the city as well as a big celebration in the Town Hall.”

I’m surprised, though, that it has taken this long for a woman to be honoured in statue form. I am in the process of editing chapter 8 on regeneration, which mentions clashes between Arnold Spencer and Graham Stringer on environmental matters, and the things that Spencer was able to achieve, including placing statues in the city.

Arnold did manage to get approval for a scheme using Egyptian paving and a statue in a small square at the bottom of Bridge Street. But he really wanted a linked pedestrian network in the city with strategically-placed resting places, including statues or artworks to make the ‘rest’ a pleasant experience. He didn’t succeed but did get a number of statues put up. He managed to achieve a lot of environmentally-sound things behind the scenes, until, as he put it, “Graham started noticing and blocking them”. One of the statues that Arnold had erected was of Abraham Lincoln – on Brazenose Street with extracts from the letter he sent to the working people of Manchester thanking them for their support (see below) – and in 1986, a statue of a seated Abraham Lincoln that was erected in 1916 was moved to Platt Fields park with the following quote:

“This statue commemorates the support that the working people of Manchester gave in the fight for the abolition of slavery during the American civil war. By supporting the Union under president Lincoln at a time when there was an economic blockade of the southern states, the Lancashire cotton workers were denied access to raw cotton which caused considerable unemployment throughout the cotton industry.”

The clashes between Arnold Spencer and Graham Stringer, that eventually led to Arnold leaving the Council, are covered as well in chapter 25.

Councillor Andrew Simcock proposed the motion for the new statue of Pankhurst is quoted in the Guardian as saying

“We have the chance to appropriately mark the 100th anniversary of the landmark of women achieving the vote by unveiling this statue. This resolution is about what Mancunian women have achieved for the city and the wider world, something we should celebrate.”

It is also an echo of things covered in chapters 24 and 26 when plans were reported that they would not cost the Council any additional money.

This new statue is expected to cost around £500,000 but Simcock said “not one penny” will come from Manchester’s public purse.

The other nominees were author Elizabeth Gaskell, Manchester councillor Margaret Ashton, anti-racism campaigner Louise Da-Cocodia, writer Elizabeth Raffald and MP Ellen Wilkinson. In numbers terms, statues of all of these would still not make it an equal balance, so it will be interesting to see if there are some other ways that all the great women of Manchester can be given greater prominence to inspire the younger generation.

Video about the making of the Portrait of Emmeline Pankhurst by Charlotte Newson

The feature image is in the public domain of Emmeline Pankhurst addressing a crowd in New York City in 1913 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emmeline_Pankhurst#/media/File:Emmeline_Pankhurst_adresses_crowd.jpg

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