On Tuesday 24 April 2018, the Prime Minister and representatives from political parties and many other organisations were among those who gathered for the unveiling of the first statue of a woman in Parliament Square.
This was for Dame Millicent Fawcett, born Millicent Garrett in Aldeburgh in 1847, who as well as being a wife and mother was a writer and political leader. She was also a moving force in improving women’s opportunities for higher education but is best known for her work as a suffragist. She gave helpful advice to Margaret Isabella Gardiner who was planning to open a school where “girls are treated like sensible creatures” and offered Miss Gardiner use of Westhill, the Garrett’s family home in Aldeburgh and it was here Saint Felix started with seven pupils in January 1897. The school expanded and in September 1902 moved into its own new buildings and one of the four boarding houses was named Fawcett in honour of the support Millicent Fawcett had given to her friend, the school’s founder.
Among the hundreds gathered in Parliament Square on that April morning were many Old Felicians including Jenny Parker and Jill Sadler, two of the four Cooper sisters and Nicola Gibb who were all at Saint Felix in the 1950s and ‘60s and are all great, great nieces of Millicent Fawcett. Memories of Millicent had been handed down to them by the previous generations and Jenny and Jill were interviewed by all the major television channels and featured on the television news that evening.
All Old Felicians felt very proud (and especially those from Fawcett) to be present at this historic occasion as the country paid tribute to the woman who had campaigned tirelessly for women to have an equal vote. As the Prime Minister said in her speech, “I would not be here today as Prime Minister, no female MPs would have taken their seats in Parliament, none of us would have the rights and protections we now enjoy, were it not for Dame Millicent Garrett Fawcett.”