Who was Alice Hawkins? The story behind the statue of the Leicester suffragette

A statue in honour of the suffragette Alice Hawkins has been unveiled in Leicester. Find out more about her efforts in fighting for the right of women to vote.

A 7ft-tall statue of the suffragette Alice Hawkins was unveiled in Leicester on Sunday, February 4.

Ms Hawkins, a shoe machinist, was jailed five times while leading the women’s suffrage movement in Leicester during the early 1900s.

Alice came to national prominence in February 1907 when she was arrested along with other women, including prominent suffragettes Emmeline and Sylvia Pankhurst, after they were charged down by mounted police following a Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) meeting in Hyde Park.

[Suffragette statue unveiled on centenary of women winning right to vote]

[Read more: Campaign for suffragette statue in Parliament Square stepped up]

Alice was jailed for 14 days, but her first experience in prison did not stop her organising meetings and protests. She formed the Leicester arm of the WSPU shortly after her release.

English suffragette celebrations in London

A mother-of-six, Alice was born in 1863 and left school at 13 years of age to become a shoe machinist, later joining Equity Shoes, a company which actively encouraged their workers to engage in political organisations.

A high point in her political activism came in 1908 at an event dubbed Women’s Sunday, when she addressed a crowd of 250,000 supporters at a mass rally in Hyde Park.

[Read more: Council apologises after road signs celebrating suffragette Pankhursts are misspelt]

Her statue will sit on a four-foot plinth after the unveiling in Market Square in Leicester city centre at 2pm.

Its sculptor, Sean Hedges-Quinn, told the Leicester Mercury: “I wanted to capture Alice’s character and show the strong-willed and strong-minded woman she was.

“She believed passionately in her cause, and I was keen to show that spirit and determination.

“Facing up to the hecklers who surrounded her in the market place would have taken guts, so Alice was clearly no shrinking violet.

"That’s why I’ve portrayed her in a confident stance, gesturing towards the crowds with defiance in her eyes.”

[Read more: Details of 1,300 suffragette arrests released online]

Sunday’s event was part of celebrations to mark 2018’s centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 (an act which gave all men and some women the right to vote) and Parliament’s ‘Vote 100’ initiative.

Hawkins’ statue is the first of three planned this year.

A statue of the founder of the National Union of Suffrage Societies, Millicent Fawcett, is set to go up in Parliament Square, while Manchester will unveil one in honour of the leader of the suffragette movement, Emmeline Pankhurst, in December.

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