Sheffield women’s historian influences new Parliament Square statue

A Sheffield historian has contributed to a statue of a suffragist leader which is set to be unveiled in London tomorrow.

Dr Julie Gottlieb, an expert on women’s history at The University of Sheffield, has worked with artist Gillian Wearing after conducting extensive research on British women in the Twentieth century.

Julie Gottlieb

The statue of Millicent Fawcett will be revealed at Parliament Square, as part of celebrations marking the centenary of women’s partial suffrage.

Dr Gottlieb, who started research at Sheffield in September 2003, has provided advice on which campaigners should be commemorated on the statue’s plinth.

She said: “The women and men on the plinth are from a range of classes, ethnicities, religious backgrounds and also political orientations.

‘‘It is often assumed that suffragists were from the left-wing of politics, but in fact liberal women dominated the suffragist organisations while there were conservative women and men who fought for women’s right to vote too.”

A banner reading ‘Courage calls to courage everywhere’ is depicted on the statue, words said by Mrs Fawcett after Emily Davison jumped in front of the King’s horse at Epsom in 1913 as a martyr of the suffragette cause.

Distinguishing between suffragettes and suffragists will also be highlighted by Dr Gottlieb as part of the commemoration.

She said: “Both groups had distinct identities and followed different tactics. The suffragists were part of a longer tradition dating from the 19th century, based on peaceful protest rather than militancy. The militant acts of the suffragettes were a response to the slow progress of democratic suffragism.

“Although suffragists don’t get as much attention, we can’t ignore the less spectacular but much longer campaign. There are historians who argue that the constitutionalists were in fact the more effective of the two wings, and the credit for the vote belongs to them. This is a heated debate to this day.’’

After completing a Joint Honours BA in English and History at McGill University in Montreal, Dr Gottlieb took a PhD at the University of Cambridge. Before coming to Sheffield, she was a History lecturer at the University of Manchester and at Bristol University.