A New Woman for Manchester!

Women have played a significant role in the history of Manchester and to celebrate that, a new statue of Mrs Pankhurst has been commissioned. It has created much excitement around the country, so Mairead Mahon went along to find out the story and the very latest news behind the project

Manchester has an amazing array of statues. However, out of the 17 statues that represent people, only one of them is of a woman and that one is, as you might have guessed, Queen Victoria. There is no doubt that her statue is resplendent and she sits in splendour, on a large throne, in Piccadilly Gardens. Originally, the piece was going to be executed in marble but Victoria had other ideas! She was concerned about our North West weather and felt that marble might not withstand the smog that (19th Manchester was famous for. As a result, she asked that it should be cast in bronze instead but unfortunately, this change of plan meant that it wasn’t completed until ten months after her death.

However, when it was eventually unveiled, it wasn’t a huge success with several newspapers pouring scorn on it. One said that it portrayed the queen as, ‘weary looking’ and others used adjectives such as, ‘bad’, ‘pretentious’, ‘futile’ and ‘inept.’ So, it does seem reasonable to suggest that, well over a hundred years later, the time has come to give Manchester another stature which portrays a woman and with that aim in mind, a campaign was begun in order to make sure that it happened. Firstly, a selection panel was brought together in order to compile a list of possible candidates. There were twenty women on the long list and they ranged from the famous such as the novelist, Elizabeth Gaskell and the campaigner, Emmeline Pankhurst to those who may not be so well known such as Emily Wilkinson, co-founder of The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The list is a fascinating one, so we’ve included a list of all the women long listed: finding out about them might be an interesting way to while away an hour or two.

Funds from the Manchester public purse have not been available for this project, so fund raising was very important and it began in June 2015 with a sponsored bike ride by the chair of the campaign, Manchester City councillor, Andrew Simcock! The ride was 1,059 miles, from Land’s End to John O’ Groats and was divided into twenty day long stages; each one of then devoted to one of the women who featured on the long list. It was a long bike ride but Andrew is an experienced cyclist and, saddle sores, or not, the result was worth it!

Read the rest of the article in the July 17 issue of the magazine.