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Emmeline Pankhurst

In December 2018, a sculpture of Emmeline Pankhurst, 'Rise up, women' (Emmeline Pankhurst, 1858–1928), was unveiled in the city of Manchester. In a public vote, Pankhurst was chosen ahead of Victorian novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, the anti-racism campaigner Louise Da-Cocodia and Labour MP Ellen Wilkinson. At the time of its unveiling, it was the first and only statue of a woman in Manchester that wasn't of Queen Victoria. This short video of the public unveiling of the statue gives a little more information about Pankhurst and her legacy.

Film credit: Huckleberry Films and the Our Emmeline Project

Emmeline Pankhurst's Arrest at Buckingham Palace

Emmeline Pankhurst's Arrest at Buckingham Palace 1914

unknown artist

National Portrait Gallery, London

Born in Moss Side, Manchester in 1858, Emmeline Pankhurst was a key member of the UK suffragette movement that campaigned for women's right to vote. She co-founded and led the Women's Social and Political Union, a movement that became dedicated to civil disobedience and direct action. Their motto was 'deeds, not words.'

Hazel Reeves' process

Hazel Reeves explains the development of this sculpture, from initial drawings to final fabrication.


Hazel began the process of creating the sculpture with research:

'I read Emmeline Pankhurst's fascinating autobiography, My Own Story. It's here that she talks of the suffragettes' rallying-cry, "Rise up, women".

At this stage I start collecting photos of Emmeline and other suffragettes, to inspire me.'

Photo references for the statue

Photo references for the statue, collected by Hazel Reeves

'Can you guess why I found each of these images particularly inspiring? Five or six of these images are of Emmeline Pankhurst herself – can you spot which?'

Drawing a design

Gestural drawings for 'Our Emmeline' statue

Hazel Reeves’ drawings

After her research, Hazel moved to observation and drawing:
'Before I even do any drawings, I often work with a live model, dressed-up, to try out poses. Then I start to put my ideas down on paper before I start sculpting a small model (or maquette).'

Creating a maquette

Rough maquette in wax of 'Our Emmeline'

The first maquette in wax, photographed from many angles

Hazel started working in three dimensions by making a maquette:

'I start with a rough maquette in wax or clay, before I work on the final detailed maquette, which is usually cast in bronze. Here you can see the rough maquette of Our Emmeline I made in wax and photographed from all sides. Again, I have focused on the gesture of the statue rather than the detail, which comes later.'

Scaling up

The maquette next to the full-size armature

Scaling up to the final maquette

'The next stage is scaling it up to the full size – 230 cm tall including the chair. See the tiny Emmeline maquette next to the metal armature for the full-size statue. What was the next step? Applying half a tonne of clay to the armature! This final clay model of Emmeline was then cast in bronze for the final public sculpture.'

The unveiling with model

Model Sarah Jenkins with the almost finished clay sculpture

Research: what stories are other statues telling us?

Ask your students to select a statue that they believe depicts an interesting story, either from the images below, or by searching through images of statues on Art UK. Get them to consider what story their statue is telling, and to also have a go at adopting the statue's stance – does this help them understand what the sculptor is trying to achieve?

The examples below include Courage Calls to Courage Everywhere, a model of the statue of the suffragist Millicent Fawcett (1847–1929) by Gillian Wearing. The final statue was unveiled in Parliament Square, London, in 2018.

There is also another of Hazel Reeves' sculptures, The Cracker Packers. These figures celebrate the lives of working women – the 'cracker packers' of the artwork's title, who worked in the Carr's (now McVitie's) biscuit factory in Carlisle. Current and retired factory workers helped her to design the statue pose during a workshop. It was unveiled on International Women's Day, 8th March 2018.

Activity: design a statue

Use this quote from Hazel Reeves to prompt your class to create their own statues:

'When I was young, I never noticed statues on the streets. Why? Because they weren't relevant to me. I didn't see someone like me. It was only when I became a sculptor I started to notice statues. And then I became much more aware of whose faces I didn't see celebrated in bronze. Who do you think is missing?

If you were to commission a statue of someone, who would it be? And why do you think they deserve a statue?'

Your class can follow a similar process to Hazel to create an initial design for a statue. The stages may look like this:

  1. Choose a person you think deserves to have a statue and do some research about them
  2. Collect images of the person that captures their movements, gestures and different poses
  3. Work with a partner to try out some options for the statue's pose and sketch some ideas
  4. Consider details to include on the sculpture such as clothing, accessories, and any other features (for example, Emmeline's chair)

Hazel's top tips:

'Show another student your favourite pose for your statue. Do they understand the story you are trying to tell? Is there something interesting for them to see from every direction, as they walk around you?

In your statue design, include additional details that help to tell the story. For example, with my Emmeline Pankhurst statue, I included a brooch at her throat that was awarded to those suffragettes who had been on hunger strike in prison.'

Create a card maquette

To get a better sense of how the statue will look in three dimensions, task your students with completing four drawings of their proposed statue on A4 card, from different views – from the front, left-side, right-side and back. They may want to take turns acting as a model for a partner while they draw.

Card maquette example

Card maquette example

Students can stick their four drawings together to create a four-sided, standing drawing of their statue (they may need to cut away some of the excess card around their drawings to do this).

Extension activity

For a longer project, you can work with your students to create a small maquette of their design. The materials required are:

  • a modelling material like air-drying clay or soft wax
  • an armature to support the modelling material (more details below)
  • modelling or clay carving tools (plastic/wooden school sets will work well)

The armature can be made of flexible aluminium wire attached to a wooden base or sections of wire pierced into a ball of aluminium foil. It may even be formed of something simpler like bamboo skewers. An example of a simple armature made out of wire can be seen in our clay modelling demonstration video.

Once all of the students have completed their maquettes, ask them to share their design with others and explain the thinking behind their design and the choices they made.

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