It feels hugely meaningful to me personally that today a statue of Millicent Fawcett was unveiled in Parliament Square - joining 11 male statues as the only female representation of strength, inspiration and dedication. Fawcett was a tireless campaigner for women's right to vote in the early 20th century.
As I do with all amazing women, I immediately researched her to see if she had been a mother. I became a feminist during the birth of my first child; writhing in pain in terror I connected in a visceral way with the hurt and anguish of women everywhere. The labour that brought about the delivery of my son brought with it other unexpected gifts; a deeper connection with the suffering of all life, and a certain loss of innocence that can be spun into wisdom if processed correctly. When I read stories about women who achieve great feats I wonder if they went through this rite of passage and, on a more practical level, muse about how they found the time to grasp hold of worldly events with toddlers tugging at their skirts. I noted that yes, Fawcett had been a mother on top of making the world a better place - not satisfied with raising her own daughter - she had also helped to raise four orphaned cousins.
So whilst wielding banners and writing works of inspiration, she had also been knee deep in the every day, as so many women are. This juggling of greatness with the entirely mundane has a strange kind of wabisabi beauty - transient, imperfect and utterly wonderful.
On Saturday I sat down with 11 amazing women to start our Processions journey of banner making and, more importantly, sharing what it means to be a woman in 2018. Lots of critical topics were raised including motherhood, equality, and the importance of building a future for the women and girls in the generation succeeding us. The group were gentle, wise, enthusiastic and hugely funny. Ideas for the banner abounded and ranged from pirates and punk to seagulls and sanitary towels!
The group is comprised of an awe inspiring collection of women - advocates for young people's mental health, vulnerable women who are fleeing homelessness or domestic abuse, and the support of people living with learning disabilities.
I was particularly touched by Pea's journey. She is a successful printmaker who specialises in using words via a huge vintage letterpress. Recently she has begun working with Hastings Furniture Service; a local charity that helps people living in poverty by providing affordable furniture, as well as offering employment and volunteer opportunities to marginalised groups including ex offenders. Upon entering the session, she picked up a small patch that had been decorated with the Suffragette phrase 'deeds not words'. 'This says it all for me,' she stated. 'I was using words to say everything I wanted to in my artwork but I realised I needed to take action. That's why I've started working with people who need the help. It's not enough to just talk about the things we want to change - we have to get up and do something about it.'