press coverage...


Kate Stirrup in the South Manchester Reporter Thursday 2 May 2002

Manchester High School for Girls has bought two miniature statues of the school's most celebrated old girl, the suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst.

Mrs Lee-Jones, headteacher, said: "Sylvia Pankhurst is our most important old girl. She did so much for the rights of women and helped make the world a better place."


Rowan Moore in the London Evening Standard Thursday 11 December 2001

a full page piece, so only a short report: ...The Rodin (Burghers of Calais) has been standing nearby on a dusty roadside spot since 1915. The National Art Collections Fund, which paid for the statue and gave it to the nation, would like to see it on a more prominent site, only to find that the Pankhurst fans already have planning permission to put her in the same place. They don't mean to budge. "It's our site and they can burgher off," says Pankhurst's biographer and statue advocate Mary Davis.

...Outside Parliament, however, politics matter more than art, and here Sylvia scores higher that the burghers... Those who shout loudest tend to win, which is why the smart money will be on the Pankhurstians, who have inherited their heroine's combative style.

...There is such a thing as the House of Commons Works of Art Committee chaired by Tony Banks... "My personal view" says Banks, "is that I'm sympathetic to shifting the Rodin so that it gets the attention it deserves..."


Paul Routledge in the New Statesman week commencing 26 March 2001

To the exhibition of parliamentary statues in the Upper Waiting Hall, only to find a very non-statuesque disagreement going on. Among the metal busts of Fenner Brockway, Donald Soper and Tony Benn, advocates of a memorial to Sylvia Pankhurst are lobbying Tony Banks, chair of the Commons Advisory Committee on Works of Art. They believe he has a secret agenda to site a Rodin statue on the patch of grass provisionally booked for Pankhurst opposite Westminster.

The sisterhood is not happy, and understandably so. Banks's committee of cultural hooligans is all-maleÖ


Suffragette Pankhurst will take place of honour at Westminster in The Sunday Times 21st January 2001

Sylvia Pankhurst, once the scourge of Britain's male establishment for demanding that women get the vote, is to be honoured with a statue outside the Palace of Westminster, writes Trushar Barot.

Westminster city council has approved plans for a memorial to the socialist feminist icon best known as a suffragette in the early 1900s. It will stand on College Green, yards from a proposed statue of her former opponent David Lloyd George, the prime minister who initially mocked Pankhurst's campaign before surrendering to her demands after the first world war...


Suffragette's time has come in the "Peterborough" column in The Daily Telegraph 13th December 2000

Westminster council has at last approved plans for a statue in honour of Sylvia Pankhurst on College Green, opposite the Houses of Parliament. The plan to commemorate Sylvia - suffragette daughter of Emmeline and sister of Christabel - benefitted from the strong support of Margaret Beckett.

"Sylvia was a fascinating figure and remained true to her roots in the labour movement" says her biographer, Mary Davis.

"The design and location of the statue are acceptable" says Westminster council, "so it should be fine with the condition that the council doesn't pay for maintenance".


Paul Routledge... New Statesman, 31 July 2000

By the base of the memorial to the suffragettes in Victoria Gardens, next to the Palace of Westminster, I found a floral tribute of lilies, white daisies and some nameless mauve flowers. On it, a card "dedicated to the memory of Emmeline Pankhurst, whose sacrifice and determination brought about the franchise for all women".

The boiler suit tendency? Blair's Babes? No, it was from the Conservative Women's National Council.

Emmeline Pankhurst was a Tory party candidate. Will the ladies now join the battle to erect a monument to Sylvia Pankhurst, whose name was omitted from the suffragette memorial because she was a lefty? She was chucked out of the Communist Party for failing to accept discipline.


Another vote for Sylvia The Camden New Journal, 22nd June 2000

The colours worn by the suffragettes almost 100 years ago - green, violet and white - burst out again on Tuesday.

Women (and one or two men) gathered on College Green facing the Commons to stake their claim for a statue to honour the life of the suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst.

Stake their claim? Yes, because another ardent group - mainly men - are also bidding for the same site. They want to see the full glory of the 'Welsh wizard' David Lloyd George peering across the green.

One man keen on Lloyd George is Michael Heseltine who heads a committee now planning a statue for their own favourite son.

But "Tarzan" appears to have been beaten to it by the sponsors of the Sylvia Pankhurst statue - including Hampstead MP Glenda Jackson and Mary Davis, a lecturer at North London University, who recently wrote a biography of the great woman.

They have already submitted plans to Westminster Council and commissioned the well-known sculptor Ian Walters. You can see a Walters' statue at the Royal Festival Hall - that of Nelson Mandela.

"It's out of order to have Lloyd George on the green - there's a big statue of him already in the Commons," said Pankhhurst committee member Megan Dobney.

The gathering on the green had been timed for June 20 to dovetail with the anniversary of the day in 1914 when Prime Minister Asquith gave in to Sylvia's threat of a hunger strike to meet a delegation of suffragettes.

Glenda Jackson suddenly turned up as a well-wisher as did 85-year-old Michael Whipple, who lives in Leighton Place, Kentish Town. "I'm so glad they want to put up this statue," he told me. "My mother was a keen suffragette before the First World War and she used to tell me all about what they stood for - it was inspiring."

A little on the edge of the crowd of modern day 'suffragettes' was a dark-haired woman in her thirties, Sylvia Pankhurst's granddaughter Helen.

She came to London four years ago from Addis Ababa in Ethiopia where her grandmother had died in 1960 at 78.

"My grandmother died before I was born but my father never stopped telling me about her" she said.

Just then a strident voice rang out: "Come on, let's stake our claim."

And the women, almost with military precision, lined up for a photograph to be taken by the sculptor Ian Walters who wanted to capture another moment of history.


Activists mark life of Sylvia Pankhurst The Morning Star, 20th June 2000

Campaigners will gather in Westminster today to celebrate the achievements of anti-fascist and fighter for womenís suffrage Sylvia Pankhurst.

The picnic, which will take place on College Green, London SW1, marks the anniversary of the day in 1914 that Prime Minister Herbert Asquith was coerced as a result of Ms Pankhurstís threat of an indefinite hunger and thirst strike, to meet a delegation of working class women from the East London Federation of Suffragettes.

The planning application for use of the site was passed by Westminster City Councilís planning department on the 23rd May.

But another group, with a selection panel headed by Michael Heseltine, is seeking to commission a statue of David Lloyd George for the same site.

The event, which takes place from 11am till 1pm will include speeches, poetry readings and womenís and socialist songs from Strawberry Thieves.

Sponsors will bring picnics and have been invited to wear green, white and violet, the suffragettes movementís colours, or red.

The campaign is sponsored by 14 national trade unions, plus many other national and local organisations.


Struggle renewed: old foes in tussle over Westminster plinths Kevin Maguire in The Guardian, 25th May 2000

Sylvia Pankhurst and David Lloyd George are to posthumously renew their struggles of the early part of the last century.

The socialist feminist best known as a suffragette, and the Liberal leader remembered for introducing old age pensions, face a "battle of the plinth". Rival groups are vying to erect a statue of their heroine or hero on the same plot of land across the road from the Palace of Westminster.

The tussle over the College Green spot promises to revive the clashes of more than 80 years ago when Sylvia Pankhurst led protests to win women the vote. Lloyd George was a member of the Liberal administration that initially opposed the right and passed the notorious "Cat and Mouse Act" to force feed her and other hunger strikers.

When suffragettes disrupted a debate, he declared: "I see some rats have got in; let them squeal. It does not matter."

Lloyd George became prime minister during the first world war, a conflict opposed by Pankhurst, but eventually agreed to limited suffrage in 1918. Sylvia Pankhurst's radicalism saw her expelled from the Women's Social and Political Union, and she was left off an earlier memorial near the House of Lords. Her case is championed by a committee backed by more than a dozen MPs, including Margaret Beckett and Glenda Jackson, the Liberal Democrats' women's group and unions.

It plans to raise £30,000 for a lifesize bronze by Ian Walters who has sculpted statues of Harold Wilson and Nelson Mandela.

The Lloyd George campaign is chaired by Michael Heseltine and supported by a cross-party coalition of peers. It intends to raise £400,000 for a bigger figure and favours the College Green site if, as expected, a bid for Parliament Square is rejected.


Unveiling Sylvia Pankhurst in The Addis Tribune (Ethiopia), 26th May 2000

The Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee is unveiling its proposed statue to commemorate the life and contribution of Sylvia Pankhurst - suffragette, socialist and anti-racist.

The committee was joined by sponsors and press at the launch at Bread and Roses, at 6.30pm on Wednesday. The owners of the Bread and Roses pub, the Workers Beer Company were sponsoring the event.

The statue is the work of prominent labour movement sculptor Ian Walters. Ian's portrait of Archbishop Trevor Huddlestone was unveiled in Bedford in April by Nelson Mandela, and he has just won the Millennium Prize for Portraiture for his portrait of Lord Soper.

The Committee intend to unveil the life-size statue on 20th June 2001. This is the anniversary of the date when Liberal Prime Minister Asquith, an opponent of women's suffrage, was coerced, as a result of Sylvia's threat of an indefinite hunger and thirst strike, to meet a delegation of working class women from the East London Federation of Suffragettes. This was the first and only women's deputation received by the government during the suffrage campaign.

Sylvia Pankhurst (1882-1960) was a socialist feminist who during the campaign for women's suffrage at the turn of the 20th century not only braved the horrors of hunger striking and forcible feeding, but also founded and built a remarkable women's organisation in the East End of London. This group, the East London Federation of Suffragettes, was composed of working class women who campaigned for the vote and for social change in the period 1912-1920. Their weekly paper The Woman's Dreadnought (later, The Workers' Dreadnought), owned and edited by Sylvia, had an enviably high circulation and was influential outside London.

Sylvia's strategy, which linked class and gender, did not find favour with the most famous of the suffrage organisations, the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), to which she belonged and the East London Federation was affiliated. The WSPU, (popularly known as the Suffragettes) was founded in 1903 and led by Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, Sylvia's mother and older sister respectively. Sylvia ws expelled by them from the WSPU in 1914.

The WSPU abandoned its early links with the labour movement in 1907 and in 1914 with the outbreak of World War One, it abandoned the suffrage campaign itself. Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst ardently supported the war effort and urged all women to do the same. Sylvia did not take their advice. Her organisation was one of the very few to maintain the fight for the vote (its first instalment was granted in 1918).

The memorial committee believe that Sylvia's strategy, based as it was on an alliance between class and gender, did far more to win the vote for all women than the more elitist and ultimately diversionary politics of her mother and elder sister.

"It is thus richly ironic that the British State has chosen to honour Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst's contribution to women's suffrage, with a statue for the former and a plaque for the latter, both outside Parliament, whilst ignoring the role of Sylvia Pankhurst.

"Sylvia would not have liked a memorial, but as a symbol of the unsung heroism of thousands of working class women who fought for the franchise and for socialism, some kind of recognition in the form of a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst is not only long overdue, but would, at long last, help correct the historical record.

"Sylvia Pankhurst was a pioneer in other ways. Apart from the fact that during her long and active life she founded and edited four newspapers, wrote and published 22 books and pamphlets not to mention literally countless articles, she was a founder and tireless activist in a variety of women's, labour movement and international solidarity organisations. She was a deeply committed anti-racist and anti-fascist and involved for over 30 years in campaigning on such issues which included the cause of Ethiopia - the country which became her home for the last four years of her life and in which she was buried" a spokesperson for the Committee said.


Mary Davis's letter in The Guardian, 29th May 2000

I was intrigued to learn ('Struggle Renewed' May 25) that Michael Heseltine heads a team of worthies who want to place a statue of Lloyd George on College Green.

They should revise their plans immediately - we have claimed the site for a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst, the feminist socialist who built the suffrage movement in London's East End.

Our statue, subject to planning permission, will be unveiled on 20th June 2001. On the same day over 80 years ago, Sylvia threatened to continue indefinitely a hunger and thirst strike unless the Liberal government agreed to meet a deputation of working class women suffragettes from the East End.

As a result Asquith and Lloyd George, who had smeared the suffrage campaign as a middle class 'escapade', met for the first and only time a delegation of women workers.

It would be unthinkable to permit Lloyd George even posthumously to reverse the tide of history. College Green is for Sylvia and the ignored force of history - working class women.


To make a donation to the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Fund, send your cheque, made payable to "SERTUC (Sylvia Pankhurst)" to us at the address below.

Contact us at: Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee, SERTUC, Congress House, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3LS, UK

or email us.

megan@gn.apc.org

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