I like a good statue. When I first moved to London to live and work, I would often walk over Golden Jubilee Bridge to The Royal Festival Hall and stand and look at the bronze bust of Nelson Mandela. Later when I worked for the railway I found the many war memorials, some at the tiniest of stations, for WWI and WWII exceptionally moving.
I seek out statues in cities and towns, often to the frustration of my travelling companions. I guess I have thought they give an insight into the place I am visiting. But now I am wondering if that is really true, or if what I have been doing all these years is actually seeing an edited version of the past.
Yesterday, 30th June, a statue of a nurse who dedicated herself to the service of her patients was unveiled across the Thames from The Houses of Parliament. The inscription reads; ‘I trust that England will not forget one who nursed the sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and succour them, and who performed the last offices for some of her illustrious dead.’ Sir William Howard Russell, Times War Correspondent, 1857. It seems to have taken us some time to remember her. Mary Seacole’s statue now stands outside St Thomas’ Hospital, overlooking the Thames. It is the first statue in the UK commemorating a black woman.
Where are all the women? Is Mary really the only black woman worthy of a statue? I am certain that is not true.
The death of Jo Cox MP led to many commentators, journalists and members of the public comment that they did not know about Jo Cox until she died.
I would like to see a resurgence of public art and statues that commemorate the great contribution women have made to society, whether through their hard work, like Mary, their campaigning and search for justice like Jo, or because someone wants us to remember them, to know about them.
The CIPR will celebrate its 80th birthday in 2018 and I wonder if we should consider our role in rebalancing some of our own history too, and lead a campaign to ensure the public commemorations we leave for future generations is truly representative of our society; diverse in every way.
Image courtesy of wikimedia