When wandering through St Peter’s Square, dodging past yellow trams and busy pedestrians, a new piece of mancunian public art can be seen. The bronze statue, known as Our Emmeline, stands on a chair with her arm stretched out, as if addressing a crowd.
This latest statue was unveiled on the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote, on the 14th December 2018. The statue, which was created by award-winning sculptor Hazel Reeves, is only the second statue of a female to be erected in Manchester, the first being of Queen Victoria.
Born in Moss Side, Pankhurst held the first suffragette meeting at her home in Chorlton-on-Medlock in 1903. Later becoming a protagonist of the struggle for voting rights, the efforts of the suffragettes eventually resulted in the ratification of the ‘Representation of the People Act’ in 1918, which originally gave all women on 30 the vote.
Permanently marking Pankhurst’s mancunian origins, therefore, is a nod to yet another example of Manchester’s powerful political history, being the birthplace of Marx and Engels’ ‘Communist Manifesto’, which they began writing in Chetham’s Library in 1845.
The decision to mark Pankhurst’s legacy followed a poll conducted by the WoManchester Statue Project, in which she won over half of the votes cast. Other propositions of inspirational female figues included Elizabeth Gaskell, Louise da-Cocodia, and Ellen Wilkinson. Having been the first female statue to be opened in Manchester since 1901, this moment is hugely significant. As such, the project received a funding of £200,000 from the GEO’s Centenary Fund.
The unveiling of the statue, ‘Rise up, women’, took place following a procession of several thousand starting at the People’s History Museum. The crowd surrounding the statue in St Peter’s square could be seen bearing placards calling for more statues of women in Manchester; given the clear imbalance of gender representation in such monuments, it is clear that this statue is a call for change, and a step towards parity.
With the Reclaim the Night march taking place on the 21st of February, Manchester is a city in motion, where women are calling for societal change and greater recognition. ‘Rise up, women’ is a small, but important step, demanding action, and giving women a voice.