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Donation paves way for Alice Hawkins statue

Published on 28 March 2017

SUFFRAGETTE Alice Hawkins is to be commemorated with a statue in Leicester city centre, thanks to a donation by a local businessman.

Jamie Lewis – the developer behind the city’s CODE Student Accommodation – has donated £62,400 to the project, which means that plans can now go ahead to create a statue of the woman who led the suffrage movement in Leicester.

As the owner of the former Equity shoe factory on Western Road, where Alice spent many years working as a machinist and where she became an active trade unionist, Mr Lewis is well aware of the building’s history

“We knew we were buying a piece of Leicester’s heritage when we bought the old factory in 2009 from one of Leicester’s last few remaining co-operatives, Equity Shoes,” he said.

“The Alice Hawkins blue plaque on the wall made its historical significance clear.

“Although the factory that Alice knew is long gone, we were keen to preserve those connections to her when we converted the building.

“Today, as you walk in through the factory gates – which are now the entrance to our student accommodation – you’ll see large panels on either side that commemorate Alice’s life in words and images, together with the history of the suffragette movement. 

“We’re very proud of our connections to Alice and admire how she and others took on the establishment and succeeded, resulting in women in the UK having a democratic right to vote – something that even in the 21st century, women are still unable to do in some parts of the world.

“So when the Alice Hawkins Legacy Group asked if we would like to support their campaign for a statue, it felt like an obvious thing to be involved with – and I am delighted that we were able to help.”

Alice’s great-grandson, Peter Barratt – who has been campaigning for a statue to honour his great-grandmother since 2012 – is pleased that the project can now get under way. 

“We are extremely grateful to Jamie Lewis for his support for our project,” he said.

“This statue will finally give recognition to a working class woman who became the figurehead for the suffrage movement in Leicester – and helped force the government to reform the electoral system in this country.”

The plinth, lighting and installation costs will be funded by the city council, which will commission the sculpture on behalf of the Alice Hawkins Legacy Group.

Heritage champion Cllr Adam Clarke said: “It’s very fitting that a woman who inspired other women to fight for their right to vote should be recognised as the Representation of the People Act celebrates its centenary next year.

“It’s been a long-held ambition of mine to see Alice commemorated in this way, so I am delighted and very grateful that the project is now fully funded.

“Alice will be the first female public figure to be commemorated with a statue in Leicester. The statue will therefore not only be a permanent tribute to Alice, it will also be symbolic of the positive contribution made by women to Leicester and to the wider world.”

The statue of Alice will be installed in Leicester’s new market square and is expected to be unveiled as part of celebrations to mark next year’s centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 and Parliament’s Vote 100 initiative.

The act began the reform of the electoral system in the UK and finally paved the way for equality for men and women at the ballot box.

Further details of the Alice Hawkins statue project will be announced soon.