Mary Slessor (1848-1915) was born in Aberdeen and moved to Dundee as a child, where she worked in a textile mill from the age of eleven. Deeply religious, she became interested in missionary work and applied to the United Presbyterian Church’s Foreign Mission Board. After training, she travelled to Calabar in Nigeria, where she spread Christianity, promoted women’s rights, protected native children and is famous for having stopped the common practice of infanticide of twins. There is a bust of her in the Hall of Heroes at the Wallace Monument in Stirling and various statues of her in Calabar. This monument, a bronze portrait relief together with bronze plaque set into a block of Aberdeen granite, was erected in 2015. It was commissioned by the Mary Slessor Foundation with support from Dundee City Council and other donors.
Location: Outside the Steeple Church, Nethergate, Dundee, Scotland.
Dame Ethel Smyth
Dame Ethel Mary Smyth DBE (1858-1944) was a British composer, conductor and author. Her musical compositions included lieder, chamber music, choral symphonies and opera. A suffragette, in 1911 she composed ‘The March of the Women’ which became the official anthem of The Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Sentenced to two months in Holloway Prison for breaking windows, she is remembered for conducting fellow suffragettes in their anthem with a toothbrush from her cell window. A keen sportwoman and radiographer stationed in Vichy during WWI, Smyth was a remarkable woman. She established an international reputation as a musician, but often regarded as just a ‘lady composer’, she was rather marginalised during her lifetime and after her death fell into obscurity. Recently, there has been a resurgence of interest in her music which no longer suffers from old-fashioned gender bias. Her compositions are being performed again and she has won a Grammy for her last major work ‘The Prison’, a vocal symphony.
Smyth is depicted here wearing her habitual tweed skirt, enthusiastically conducting with the over-sized baton, which was presented to her by Emmeline Pankhurst at the Albert Hall. The sculptor describes ‘her arms beating out the time and her eyes full of concentration as she battles with her hearing loss, which went completely in her late 50s. In her pocket is a sheaf of paper, perhaps notes for a new book, she had 10 published.’
From 1910-44 Smyth lived near Woking in Surrey.
Location: Dukes Court Plaza, Woking, Surrey.
Helen Halyburton Symers
Helen Halyburton Symers (1831-1906) was a noted philanthropist in Dundee, who gave large sums to many local causes including St Paul’s United Free Church, University College Dundee, Royal Victoria Hospital, the Convalescent Home and the Salvation Army Rescue Home. She donated the site for the Arthurstone Branch Library and set up a Fund for Indigent Females with a donation of £10,000. She was also president of the Dundee Ladies’ Union, treasurer of the Female Society for Visiting & Relieving Aged Females in Distress, a member of the Industrial Schools Society and the Home for Reformation of Females. In 1899, she became only the third woman to be made a Burgess of Dundee. This bronze relief and the Arthurstone Library were designed by the Dundee architect, James Thomson. The relief is dated 1905 and it was unveiled in that year.
Location: Entrance to Arthurstone Library, Dundee, Scotland.
Violette Szabo (1921-1945), British/French undercover agent, Special Operations Executive (SOE) during WWII. The SOE was a covert operation, known as ‘Churchill’s Secret Army’, which operated behind enemy lines. Szabo was captured on her second mission to France and shot at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp, she was 24 years’ old. She was posthumously awarded the George Cross in 1946, the French Croix de Guerre a year later and in 1973 the Médaille de la Résistance. The memorial consists of a bronze portrait bust on polished granite plinth. Bronze plaques on the front and back of the plinth commemorate the 407 SOE agents who worked on sabotage missions with the French Resistance.
Location: In front of Lambeth Palace, Albert Embankment, South Bank, London SE1.
Margaret Hilda Thatcher, Baroness Thatcher (1925-2013) was the Conservative MP for Finchley 1959-92 and the first woman to become leader of a major political party in the UK. She was the longest serving British Prime Minister of the twentieth century.
The sculpture is located in the Members’ Lobby of the House of Commons on one of four plinths, together with Attlee, Lloyd George and Churchill. It was commissioned by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art whose Chairman at the time was Tony Banks (later Baron Stratford). The purpose of the sculpture was to celebrate her election as the first female British Prime Minister. It was unveiled by Thatcher herself, who commented after the ceremony ‘I might have preferred iron but bronze will do, and it won’t rust…’.
Location: Members' Lobby, Palace of Westminster, London.
Flora Thompson (1846-1947), postal worker, novelist and poet, best known for her trilogy, Lark Rise to Candleford, much of her writing is autobiographical. She moved to Liphook in 1916 and lived there until 1928. Her portrait bust in bronze was unveiled in 1981 outside the Sorting Office, then after being vandalised, it was recast and re-sited inside Liphook Library in 1995.
Location: Liphook Library, Hampshire.
Greta Thunberg (b. 2003), Swedish environmental activist, who campaigns about climate change and holds world leaders to account. She instigated School Strikes for Climate, spoke both at the 2018 UN Climate Change Conference and the 2019 UN Climate Action Summit. In 2019 she was the youngest ever Time Person of the Year. She has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times.Thunberg is depicted standing on a block of Purbeck stone, one hand clenched, her right arm stretched in front as if persuading people, her face looks as though she will speak with confidence. Charlesworth wanted to show that someone who had problems in life and who found mixing with people difficult, could still talk in public. The statue is designed to inspire other students, who may have their own problems, to take courage. Winchester University is one of the greenest in the country and this statue, called Make a Difference was funded through a percentage for art scheme from the costs of the new building. It is believed to be the first full-size statue of Thunberg.
Location: Outside the main entrance to the new building, West Downs Centre, Winchester University, Hants.
Harriet Tubman, born Araminta Ross, (c.1820 -1913) an abolitionist and political activist was known as the ‘Moses of her people’. An escaped slave from the South, she was a leading figure as a ‘conductor’ on the Underground Railroad, which helped hundreds of slaves to escape to freedom. During the American Civil War she worked as a nurse and cook, then as an armed scout and spy. She was active in the women’s suffrage movement. The Harriet Tubman Memorial was commissioned by Kirklees Council as part of Black history month to mark the hundredth anniversary of the her death. Wilks created the concept for the sculpture working with students from the Netherhall Learning Campus, Huddersfield. The plinth on which the portrait bust sits is carved with reliefs inspired by African art and culture. The work in Maltese limestone is signed and dated. It was unveiled on 1 October 2013.
Location: Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery, Princess Alexandra Walk, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.
Twiggy (b.1949) This public sculpture, titled Grosvenor Group, is a realistic scene in which a passing shopper comes across Terence Donovan photographing the model Twiggy near to his Mayfair studio. Twiggy is depicted as she posed in a famous shot taken by Donovan in the swinging 60s wearing a moiré taffeta waistcoat and skirt designed by Mary Quant’s Ginger Group. In fact though Donovan did not move into his Bourdon Street studio until the late 1970s, at the time this shot was actually taken in the 1960s Donovan was still at his Yeoman’s Row studio in Knightsbridge. The bronze sculpture was unveiled in 2012. It was commissioned by Grosvenor Estates to mark the opening of their new building on Grosvenor Hill.
Location: Outside Bourdon House, Mayfair, London SW1.
Virginia Wade OBE (b.1945) tennis player, who is the only British woman to have won all four major tournaments. In 1977 she won the Wimbledon ladies singles title. Her portrait bust was commissioned to be displayed at Wimbledon.
Location: All England Lawn Tennis Club, Wimbledon