Theresa Lola's poem - 14-18 NOW
14-18 NOW / Programme / Millicent Fawcett / Theresa Lola’s poem
Gillian Wearing

Millicent Fawcett

Free London

Image credit: GLA Caroline Teo

For Those Who Listen When Courage Calls by Theresa Lola

i) Addressee

This is for those who stand beside and not behind,
a leader without support is a bell without a clapper,
is a thunder with no bass.
This is for Minnie Baldock, for Louisa Garrett Anderson,
for Margaret Ashton, and the over 50 others.
This is for the men who campaigned too,
for the men who unpeel the spike riddled layer of privilege
from their body without crying over its loss.
This is for Dame Millicent Fawcett, for she
who selflessness was a gift she never stopped unwrapping,
for she who in 1918 opened a floodgate for change,
a year where the first women were given the right to vote..
This is also for the women with names but without
a mouth to echo them, the ones who fought
even when the sky was a veil drowning their coloured faces.
This is for Caroline Criado Perez who started the petition
to commemorate women’s suffrage with a statue.
This is for Gillian Wearing who created the statue.
This is for the women who continue
to prove that a mountain is moved
not by the flick of whispers but by a rapture of hands.
This is for they who listen when courage calls,
who stand by the phone so often,
the ringing sound now rests in their bodies.

ii) Time stamp

1866, at 19 Millicent Fawcett had started petitioning
to parliament for women suffrage,
she folded violence behind her ear
and used knowledge as the cement to build everything on,
because a woman who has knowledge will see
her palm lines bloom into a map of the world.
Today women make up 33% of local councils in England,
though 15% in leadership roles. I praise change,
but dare it to stop crawling and run faster,
because Protesting has no emotional expiry date.

iii) Statue

Wearing a half bronze pinkish granite gown
Millicent Fawcett now stands poised watching
the world from parliament square,
because a woman is powerful even in stillness,
because a young girl will point at her and ask
for a story to conjure up, because visibility is a portal
for another woman to see and enter.

iv) Signed letter

This is for they who continue to listen when courage calls,
who stand by the phone so often,
the ringing sound now rests in their bodies.
This is for they who fight to take on the name
‘The first woman to be’,
many plaques still left to be written on.

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