Helen Molyneux (LLB 1987) is the person behind Monumental Welsh Women – a group looking to erect Cardiff’s first statue honouring a Welsh woman.
So, why a statue? It might seem old fashioned but I am a great believer in the adage that “you can’t be what you can’t see”.
Public statues celebrate extraordinary lives and achievements. But they are also more than that. They are social statements of worth, a signal that this is the kind of person the community holds in high esteem. In Cardiff, those people are immortalised all around us. Take a walk from Cardiff city centre to the Quay and you’ll pass figures as diverse as Lord Bute, Nye Bevan and Ivor Novello.
But guess how many of those statues are of (real) women? And not just in Cardiff, but the whole of Wales.
Give up? The answer is just two: Queen Victoria (who clearly wasn’t Welsh) and Boadicea.
When I first read that – in an article by journalist Carolyn Hitt – I was so surprised that I decided to investigate. I was shocked by what I discovered. It wasn’t just the lack of statues: it was the difficulty of finding even stories of women who had “achieved”. There seemed to be a casual assumption that, if no women were deemed worthy of a statue, it was simply because there weren’t any women worth celebrating.
Tellingly, when the Monumental Welsh Women project drew up a list of a hundred women who had made a significant impact across a wide range of areas, from politics and the arts to medicine and architecture, some people called the women on our list “a bit obscure”! It is precisely because they are obscure – because their achievements aren’t properly recorded or recognised – that we need to bring them to life.
We need statues of prominent women to give girls (and boys) everyday images of successful, inspiring women in the fabric of where they live.
Our hope is that one day, to be a successful woman will be commonplace. Not rare, exotic, or noteworthy by virtue of gender.
Once we have statues of women who have achieved amazing things dotted around Wales, we won’t need to talk about the fact that they are women; instead, we will simply be inspired by their achievements and recognise their contributions to Wales and the world.
Read the next Game Changers article:
Nia Jones (Environmental Geography 2016-) and Douglas Lewns (Environmental Geography 2017-) – The No Straw Stand
Also in this series: