THE campaign to secure the first female statue in Middlesbrough has reached its next stage after the poll of shortlisted women closes.
The Eighth Plinth was launched as there are currently seven statues in Middlesbrough – all of men - and the campaign aims to address the representation of women.
A list of six unsung, remarkable women, who all made a positive impact on the area, was put to a public vote to find who will be commemorated with a statue.
Almost 600 people had their say in the poll with votes coming in from as far afield as California, Poland and Australia.
Ellen Wilkinson MP topped the vote and fundraising will now start in earnest to raise the money for the statue. Not a penny of the cost for the statue will come from public funds.
Campaign co-ordinator Emma Chesworth said: “There are many remarkable women who lived and do live in Middlesbrough and this campaign aims to highlight their tremendous achievements.
“I am delighted so many people took the time to read about the shortlisted women and place their vote. All too often, women are erased from history and their achievements never known or given the recognition they deserve.”
Ellen Wilkinson was born in 1891 and was elected Labour MP for Middlesbrough East in 1924, serving until 1931. In 1925 her campaigning saw the amending of anomalies adversely affecting widows in the Pension Bill. She returned to Parliament in 1935 representing Jarrow and leading the Hunger Marches. In 1945 she became the first female Education Secretary, introducing free milk and school meals.
The Eighth Plinth campaign has the support of Middlesbrough Council and Middlesbrough MP Andy McDonald.
Andy McDonald MP said: “This is a brilliant initiative. It has always been ridiculous that 50% of the population were given less credence and paid less attention simply because of their gender. We've made great strides in redressing such gross injustice and imbalance in recent decades but we still have a long way to go. Ideas like this make a major contribution to correcting perceptions of significant contributions to our shared past and I am 100% supportive. History is full of "her" stories and we should tell them loud and proud."
Middlesbrough Mayor David Budd said: “We have several statues in Middlesbrough in honour of some of the major figures in the town’s history – but it’s currently an all-male club.
“That clearly ignores a number of women whose achievements are every bit the equal of their male counterparts, even though they might not be household names.
“I’m pleased to lend the Council’s backing to this campaign, which will lead to greater understanding of their contribution to the town, and a fitting a tribute to one of their number.”
The shortlisted women were: Ellen Wilkinson, Viva Talbot, Gertrude Bell, Alice Schofield Coates, Mary Jaques and Marion Coates Hansen.