There are hundreds of statues in London- some more famous than others. But how many do you think are dedicated to women?You can almost count them on the fingers of your hand.
It all began when I was sitting in a meeting in Central London which had a park outside. During lunch a colleague and I went to get some fresh air and noticed a statue of a woman in the corner. We had no idea who she was but it turned out she was Britain’s first female surgeon. Why didn’t I know this?
I had wanted to do something to mark the centenary of Votes for Women this year and was undecided between a march or an exhibition. When I heard about the scant representation of statues I decided to make a connecting walk between as many as possible on the north side of the River Thames- and here it is.
My walk starts where I was first inspired and made more curious: Tavistock Square Gardens (WC1H 9EU) . It is here that the statue of Louisa Brandreth Aldrich-Blake is located in a corner of the gardens. It’s not far from Euston Station and very close to the medical associations. She was the first female surgeon in Britain and was the first to operate on cervical and rectal cancers. Edward Lutyens designed the statue and it has been there since 1926. What a woman to pioneer surgery in a world of men.
On the opposite side of the garden is the statue dedicated to Virginia Woolf. All around this area is Bloomsbury where writers and artists debated and discussed, created and wrote in the 1920’s. Virginia Woolf is famous for a number of books including To The Lighthouse. She lived in this neighbourhood in her younger years. Tavistock Square Gardens is also home to a statue commemorating the victims of Hiroshima and Mahatma Gandhi. It seems to be a square of free thinking and reflection.
From here, take the southern exit and turn right. Ahead is Gordon Square- another Bloomsbury Square with a female statue.Go inside and you’ll see the statue of Noor Inyat Khan. She was a British Indian agent who operated in France in World War Two and was shot by the Germans.
Retrace your steps and walk down Woburn Place until the junction with Lincolns Inn Fields. Turn left. In the garden at Lincolns Inn Fields is the statue of Margaret Ethel Macdonald, a social reformer and feminist. She was also the wife of labour politician, Ramsay Macdonald. Her many achievements included setting up the first girls trade schools in 1904. She died of blood poisoning in 1911.
Head down Long Acre to Seven Dials and the junction with Cranbourn Street Here you will find the fifth statue- Agatha Christie. Known the world over for her mystery and crime novels, she is celebrated here. Think of Murder on the Orient Express, Death On the Nile, and more. If you look closely you can see a small Miss Marple too!
Continue along Long Acre to the junction with Charing Cross Road. Turn left and walk to St Martins Place. This is the location of Edith Cavell’s statue. She was a nurse who cared for British soldiers in World War One and was shot by the Germans in 1915.
Walk past Charing Cross Station and Trafalgar Square to Whitehall. About half way down this famous road is a statue commemorating the work of women during the second world war. Continue to Parliament Square. In and around the gardens are several statues of men including Churchill, but the one to look for is Millicent Fawcett. This was installed in 2018 and commemorates her work on fighting for the right for women to vote. It was designed by Gillian Wearing and of all the statues, I liked this the best.
Walk between the Houses of Parliament and Westminster Abbey to Victoria Tower Gardens. This is the final statue on this walk and is that of Emmeline Pankhurst, the leader of the suffragettes who campaigned for the rights of women. Both her statue and Millicent Fawcett’s in the shadow of Westminster demonstrated how far we have come with women and the right to vote and work- and how much more there is to do.