This statue of Queen Victoria was erected at the end of Grand Avenue, Hove, in 1897 in commemoration of her Diamond Jubilee. Have a good look at it. Because it’s the only statue of a woman in Brighton and Hove. Last week Brighton’s local paper, The Argus, published an article here
http://www.theargus.co.uk/news/11633396.Plea_for_more_women_on_blue_plaques/ about the lack of recognition for women who have shaped our history. Only a quarter of blue plaques in the city commemorate women. The article says: ‘Ali Ghanimi, of Free University Brighton, and blogger and history guide Louise Peskett hope to raise public awareness of women forgotten by history.’ I am in my third year of doing guided women’s history walks of Brighton. I know from all the surprised faces and ‘well, I never knew that’ and ‘this is so weird I’ve never heard of this woman’ comments that the key word here is ‘forgotten’.
And what about blue plaques? They’re all well and good but they’re all about the past, aren’t they? I mean, it’s nice to remember the great and the good but, really, it’s only a bit of metal that looks like a blue dinner-plate, is it that relevant these days? Absolutely. I’ll hand over to Ali here: ‘“Telling stories about women’s achievements is a very powerful way to improve girls’ confidence and sense of place in the world,’ she says. ‘It counters harmful stereotypes and helps boys develop more respect for girls and women, which benefits all of us”. Self-respect and having positive role-models have never been so relevant or important. And not just for young people. Are we ever too old to feel gladdened by and inspired by others’ achievements? Celebrating people is as much to do with today and tomorrow as yesterday.
This is why Ali – with some tentative help from me and a handful of other local women – is organising the first Women’s History Event in Brighton next March. It’s built on Ali’s course at the Free University (http://freeuniversitybrighton.org/), ‘Women, the Greatest Story Never Told’. Watch this space and expect speakers, workshops, tours and a club night plus more. It’s shaping up to be an exciting day. More details to follow as they come in.
This is one of the 21 women commemorated by a blue plaque in Brighton, Dame Anita Roddick, businesswoman, human rights activist and environmental campaigner, best known as the founder of The Body Shop.