Suffragette statue unveiled on centenary of women winning right to vote


A bronze statue of a suffragette has been unveiled in Leicester 100 years on from women winning the right to vote.

The sculpture of Alice Hawkins, a shoe factory machinist who led the women's suffrage movement in the city in the early 1900s, was the centrepiece of the celebrations on Sunday.

The event marked the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918, in which all men and some women were given the right to vote.

Centenary of the Representation of the People Act
Liz Kendall takes a selfie in front of a statue of suffragette Alice Hawkins (Aaron Chown/PA)

The 7ft bronze statue of Ms Hawkins was revealed in Leicester Market Square at 2pm, a location she would have delivered many of her speeches.

Around a thousand people turned out for the celebrations, which also included a march from Leicester's Secular Hall and a re-enactment of an Alice Hawkins soapbox speech.

At the ceremony, Ms Hawkins's great-grandson Peter Barratt said: "Alice and the other women were often heckled by the crowd but today we have been here to cheer Alice on.

"We have always been strong in our belief that if we could get the statue of Alice here in the market place, it would not only be of 'Alice Hawkins, suffragette', but it would also be representational of working class women who worked such long hours but stood up for what they believed in and became suffragettes."

Centenary of the Representation of the People Act
An actor playing Alice Hawkins stands on a wooden box for a speech (Aaron Chown/PA)

Mr Barratt said he had been campaigning to erect a statue of Ms Hawkins for around five years.

Kate Barratt, Ms Hawkins's great-great-granddaughter, added: "Alice actually gives me a lot to live up to.

"I get asked questions about how I am following in her footsteps but just like many women I go about my day-to-day life.

"I have my freedom, I have my vote and I don't even need to think about it, whereas Alice had to fight for that."

Liz Kendall, Labour MP for Leicester West, who was one of a party of four who unveiled the statue, said: "To hear about her life and her work and her belief in equality has been very moving.

"Your vote is your voice and we have to use that vote to make our voices heard.

"It reminds me more than ever before just how far we still have to go to have liberty and equality for women in this country - so a very special day and I am honoured to have been a part of it."

Plans for statues of prominent suffragettes Emmeline Pankhurst and Millicent Fawcett are in place for Manchester and Parliament Square in Westminster in the coming year.