‘Forget Lords snub... we’ll build Sylvia Pankhurst statue in Clerkenwell’

Clerkenwell ward Cllr Alice Donovan, Barbara Switzer, Rodney Bickerstaffe and Megan Dobney with a br

Clerkenwell ward Cllr Alice Donovan, Barbara Switzer, Rodney Bickerstaffe and Megan Dobney with a bronze model of Sylvia Pankhurst in Clerkenwell Green (Picture: Ken Mears) - Credit: Archant

A statue of suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst could be coming to Islington’s “most radical street” – after a 17-year campaign.

'We're not having it': Campaigners are undeterred by the Lords snub and plan to build a statue of Sy

'We're not having it': Campaigners are undeterred by the Lords snub and plan to build a statue of Sylvia Pankhurst in Clerkenwell Green (Picture: Ken Mears) - Credit: Archant

Clerkenwell Green, dubbed the “headquarters of republicanism and revolution”, has been chosen as the most appropriate location by the Sylvia Pankhurst Memorial Committee. It is home of the Marx Memorial Library and annual starting point of the workers’ May Day march since 1890.

The committee originally had planning permission for Miss Pankhurst’s statue in College Green, next to the houses of Parliament, but it was thrown out by the House of Lords.

That led the campaigners to Clerkenwell. On Tuesday, International Women’s Day, founder member Megan Dobney told the Gazette: “Her memory has been rejected by the establishment and we aren’t having it.”

Miss Pankhurst, who died in 1960, was a leader of the early 20th century suffragette movement with mother Emmeline and sister Christabel – who are commemorated in a statue and plaque near Parliament. No official memorial exists for Sylvia.

Clerkenwell ward Cllr Alice Donovan, Barbara Switzer, Rodney Bickerstaffe and Megan Dobney with a br

Clerkenwell ward Cllr Alice Donovan, Barbara Switzer, Rodney Bickerstaffe and Megan Dobney with a bronze model of Sylvia Pankhurst in Clerkenwell Green (Picture: Ken Mears) - Credit: Archant

“This is what motivates us,” said Ms Dobney. “She’s almost written out of history. We need to remember she continued the fight of women’s suffrage. She was the one who saw working class women as a vital part of the struggle. Her mother and sister eventually integrated with the establishment.

“And Sylvia was much more than a suffragette. She wasn’t only fighting for the vote but also better working conditions for women, and was a campaigner against racism.”

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Of Clerkenwell Green, Ms Dobney added: “Its radical history embodies her causes. Plus, being on the edge of the City and East End, we think it would be attractive to visitors.”

Planning

Clerkenwell Green was described as the 'headquarters of revolution' (Picture: Ken Mears)

Clerkenwell Green was described as the 'headquarters of revolution' (Picture: Ken Mears) - Credit: Archant

The committee hopes to erect the statue by 2018, the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918: when some women first got the vote. It will seek planning permission from Islington Council.

Cllr Claudia Webbe, executive member for environment and transport, said: “We are very excited by the proposal to erect a statue to Sylvia Pankhurst at Clerkenwell Green, and we are fully committed to working with Emily Thornberry [Islington South and Finsbury MP] and the TUC [which has been tasked with raising £70,000 for the project] to make this happen.

“Sylvia Pankhurst was a committed socialist and tireless campaigner for women’s rights, and a statue in her honour where she undertook much of her work would be a fitting tribute.”

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