Manchester took to the streets to celebrate the unveiling of a statue of suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst in St Peter’s Square on 14th December. The statue arrives 100 years to the day after some women were able to vote for the first time in a UK General Election.
Dressed in sashes in suffragette green, white and purple, crowds chanted some of Emmeline’s famous phrases “rise up women” and “words not deeds”. Over 1,000 schoolchildren marched from Emmeline’s former home, the Pankhurst Centre, to see the unveiling and be part of the huge moment in Manchester’s history.
The statue in St Peter’s Square sees Emmeline stood on a chair, addressing the crowds, arm outstretched as though calling us all to action. She faces the former Free Trade Hall where the suffraggette’s first distrutpive actions took place.
Emmeline’s great granddaughter, Helen Pankhurst, said: “Today we honour Emmeline here in Manchester, her personal and political home, and we remember all of those who fought alongside her in the country and beyond. Women and men. Today, she has been welcomed back with a march, as of old, to a meeting circle, as of old. In this statue, she is campaigning, still beckoning us on, because despite all the progress in women’s lives, there is still work to be done, here in Manchester, in the country as a whole and globally. It’s important that Emmeline is here. She is a local hero and a global icon, a symbol of women rising, defying their secondary status, demanding change.” The push for more statues of women in Manchester started in 2014 with a campaign to recognise women’s contributions to the city. Three years ago, a public vote was held where people chose Emmeline from a list of 20 inspiring Manchester women. Emmeline pipped Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, the anti-racism campaigner Louise da-Cocodia and “Red” Ellen Wilkinson to the post.
The beautiful, bronze statue is only the second statue of a women in Manchester since a statue of Queen Victoria was unveiled in Piccadilly Gardens in 1901. The statue’s creator Hazel Reeves is committed to championing working women. Hazel’s last big commission was the ‘Cracker Packer‘ statue which honours female biscuit factory workers in Carlisle.
At the unveiling, Hazel addressed Emmeline directly, saying “Emmeline, we need you as much as ever, back on our streets, continuing to inspire us all – women and men – to rise up and demand gender equality and demand the end to violence against women. We need, today, to channel your passion, courage and determination and take this back into our lives – into our homes, into our communities, into our workplaces.
See how the statue was made below…
Find out more about the Emmeline Pankhurst statue at womanchesterstatue.org.
Find out more about Hazel Reeves at hazelreeves.com/biography.