A new public database recording the number of female statues in the UK has been launched, in the hope of addressing the gender imbalance in civic monuments.
Campaign group the Public Sculptures and Statues Association (PSSA) has so far recorded 100 sculptures and busts of “real-life women”, but is calling on the public to help it track as many as possible.
Its co-chair Joanna Barnes told the PA news agency the database is important “because we need all the facts in one place”.
She stressed the current list is not comprehensive, with new submissions being made and updated on a rolling basis.
Members of the public are encouraged to send in information about statues of women in their area.
“We have a live list that we can keep on adding to, so we can actually see what is out there and who’s being celebrated,” she said. “There are some really interesting women being celebrated.”
In 2016, campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez organised all the statues in the database from a now-defunct group called the Public Monuments and Sculptures Association.
She found there were 158 statues of women, but almost half were of mythical figures.
Just 25 statues on that list were women who were not either mythical or royalty – though the PSSA estimates that figure to have since grown.
But there are concerns that proposals by a group of Conservative MPs to commemorate more than 1,700 recipients of the Victoria Cross and George Cross – just 11 of whom are women – could see gender inequality in civic monuments exacerbated.
Terri Bell-Halliwell, from the campaign group InVISIBLE Women, told the PA news agency: “Men are already very, very well represented.
“It’s a clever move in many ways, because how churlish you seem if you say, oh no we shouldn’t commemorate these war heroes, because obviously, they are very heroic people.
“But when you look at the existing situation, it just makes an overwhelming imbalance even more massively imbalanced.
“If it were me, I’d be embarrassed to be announcing to the world that the male ego needs that much bolstering.
“I mean no disrespect to them. It must have been horrendous to be in any kind of battle. I can’t imagine the horror of it all and what kind of bravery those people exhibited, so it’s absolutely not against these people. It’s just the concept.”
She said the problem of under-representation is even more stark when it comes to women from ethnic minorities.
Prior to 2016, the only statue of a non-white woman she had recorded was one honouring Pocahontas.
In January that year, a memorial was unveiled to Jamaican-born nurse Mary Seacole. It was believed to be the first in honour of a named black woman in the UK and followed a 12-year campaign.
In the last five years, a number of local campaigns have been pushing for more female statues around the UK.
Jean Calder, chair of trustees for the Mary Clarke statue appeal, told PA she is fighting to commemorate the first suffragette to give her life for women’s right to vote.
She said: “What is interesting about Mary is that she gave her life, she was the first to die for the case and had she been male almost certainly there would have been memorials to her.
“I think a lot of the men who were awarded the Victoria Cross are already memorialised.
“But the real gap is women, and from our perspective the contribution of women to society and the heroism and bravery of women.”