Fawcett went on to devote her lifetime to the cause of women’s suffrage and equality, and, in April 2018, a statue of her by Wearing was unveiled in London’s Parliament Square. Commissioned in response to a campaign by Caroline Criado Perez, which saw nearly 85,000 signatures applied to an online petition, Millicent Fawcett is the first statue of or by a woman to stand in the historic London plaza. The sculpture sees the Suffragist leader brandishing a placard proclaiming ‘Courage calls to courage everywhere’, and standing on a plinth emblazoned with the images of leading suffragist and suffragette campaigners.
It is from this cohort of dedicated men and women, working a century ago, that the inspiration for Wearing’s latest limited edition was drawn. Mayor of London’s Culture & Creative Industries Team and Plinth have worked with the artist to produce an edition of 1,000 embroidered handkerchiefs, each featuring signatures from 50 of these historic figures alongside those of Caroline Criado Perez and Gillian Wearing herself. Suffragists and -gettes had a long history of embroidering the signatures they couldn’t apply to an electoral roll to pieces of fabric – table cloths, banners and handkerchiefs like this one – via the traditionally female medium of needlework. The edition aspires to honour that tradition of craft, and amplify the names of activists often forgotten whilst celebrating recent triumphs in the battle for gender equality.