On Friday 14th December, a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst will be unveiled to the public in St Peter’s Square – one hundred years to the day that the first women went to the polls to vote in a UK general election.
Designed by award-winning figurative sculptor Hazel Reeves, ‘Our Emmeline’ will be the first statue of a woman in Manchester since that of Queen Victoria was unveiled in Piccadilly Gardens in 1901.
Emmeline Pankhurst was chosen by the public from a long list of 20 inspiring Mancunian women. As well as voting for Emmeline, the public also voted for Hazel’s ‘Rise Up, Women’ as the winning design from a short list of six maquettes.
In Hazel’s design, the meeting circle in which Emmeline is stood is symbolically orientated towards the former Free Trade Hall, where the first disruptive meetings of the suffragettes took place.
“Our Emmeline is not only a wonderful tribute to the life and work of Emmeline Pankhurst, but is also an incredible legacy to the suffragette movement and the role of Manchester’s women in campaigning for the vote,” said Helen Pankhurst, Emmeline’s great granddaughter.
“That she should be unveiled exactly 100 years since the day some women first went to the polls and a few first stood as MPs in a UK election is especially poignant. I hope that Our Emmeline inspires all those who are now helping to continue the ongoing journey towards achieving equality.”
Helen believes that the unveiling should be an occasion that sees people gather from across Greater Manchester to march to meet Our Emmeline.
Two symbolic rallying points have been selected: the Pankhurst Centre, the former home of Emmeline Pankhurst and the birthplace of the suffragette movement; and People’s History Museum, the national museum of democracy.
Marchers will gather at Great Northern Square, just a short walk from People’s History Museum, and Denmark Road, just a short distance from the Pankhurst Centre, and then converge collectively at St Peter’s Square to greet Our Emmeline.
The Pankhurst Centre is the location where, in 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst invited a group of women to meet in her home to form the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU), whose supporters would become known as suffragettes.
As the only museum dedicated to women’s suffrage, its focus is on bringing to life the story of campaigning and sacrifice that went into securing votes for women.
“2018 has been a year that has inspired all of us who are working to carry forward the legacy of those who have fought for equality and it will be wonderful to end the year with such a celebratory and poignant moment,” said Gail Heath, chief executive of the Pankhurst Trust.
Marchers and those gathering in St Peter’s Square will be welcomed by the uplifting voices of Manchester Community Choir before hearing about the story behind Our Emmeline.
“That this significant chapter in the history of our democracy should be marked by an event of the people says much about the spirit of Manchester,” said Katy Ashton, director of People’s History Museum.
6,000 ponchos in suffragette colours are being made available by the Emmeline Pankhurst Statue Campaign. These along with an order of service can be collected from People’s History Museum, Pankhurst Centre and Manchester Central Library.
Also available will be suffragette sashes and rosettes, which are being provided by Manchester City Council for marchers to wear on the day.