Women’s groups have warned the government that a campaign to honor more than 1,700 war heroes with statues will further exacerbate the “staggering” gender imbalance of UK civic statues.
The Common Sense Group of Conservative MPs has proposed that everyone who receives the Victoria Cross and George Cross be immortalized with a statue at their birthplace. Only 11 of the 1,761 holders of these honors are women, according to the Fawcett Society.
The UK is estimated to have 25 public statues of women who were not queens or princesses, and 500 non-royal men. If all Victoria and George Cross holders were made into statues, only 1.5% of all non-royal statues would be women.
Invisible women, a virtual museum and a national campaign for gender equality in civic statues in the UK, says that while the 1,761 are heroic people, erecting statues of so many men would be totally retrograde.
The Common Sense Group campaign has been warmly received by both Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who said he “looked forward to further discussing these ideas,” and Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick.
In a letter addressed to Sir John Hayes, Chairman of the Common Sense Group, and copied to Dowden and Jenrick, Terri Bell-Halliwell, founder of inVisiblewomen, writes: “The best estimate of the number of British statues of non-real names The men were 500 at the last count in 2016, while non-royal women totaled only 25. Given this staggering imbalance, I was struck by the Common Sense Group’s proposal on the erection of statues for all Victoria and George Cruzar holders. “
He told ministers that there are a number of active campaigns for statues of women, including suffragettes Mary Jane Clarke, Amy Walmsley and Sylvia Pankhurst, paleontologist Mary Anning, MP Barbara Castle, author Virginia Woolf and the matchgirls, the working-class women and girls who became pioneers in the union movement by campaigning for better conditions at their London matchmaker factory.
“If the public purse is really going to be used for new statues, surely these women should be the first to apply for such funding? Even if each of them had a statue, we still would not have come close to gender equality in who we admire on civic plinths, but it would at least be a step in the right direction, “she wrote.
“Coming from a government that has so often expressed its support for gender equality, this idea seems totally retrograde. These are undoubtedly all heroic people, but the vast majority of them are men and civic statues are already overwhelmingly masculine, ”he added.
Launching the campaign in January, Hayes said: “Tragically, many of those who have given and achieved so much have been forgotten. In many places, the locals may not know that they are following in the footsteps of heroes.
“That is why Common Sense Group has launched a campaign to honor all VC and GC recipients by erecting a statue, immortalizing them in their place of birth.
“When this is not possible in practice, these heroes could be recognized by a plaque or have a public building, park, or road named or renamed.”
A source from the Department of Digital Media, Culture and Sports said: “Obviously it is neither one nor the other. As the secretary of state said when this was first raised, he would like to see the men and women who shaped our communities recognized as we add to our heritage. “
The Guardian has asked Hayes and Jenrick for comment.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism