On 8th March, International Women’s Day 2023, the statue of Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, ‘Our Elizabeth’ was one year old.
Elizabeth’s Group held a party in Congleton town centre, and handed out cakes to passers-by whilst having a chat about Elizabeth and reminding everyone of her importance to women’s education, financial freedom and enfranchisement.
Many thanks to everyone who stopped by and shared this special day. Elizabeth is now a fixture in Congleton and very popular with local residents and many from further afield, lots of whom came to town on a very cold March day just to say ‘Happy Birthday Our Elizabeth’.
The Sale-based Montague Patchers have presented Elizabeth’s Group with their Deeds Not Words quilt, produced by the whole team in recognition of the work of Elizabeth and all the women who fought for suffrage.
It is a fantastic acquisition for our group and we are very grateful. We will be displaying the quilt at future events, the first one being the International Women’s Day Talk at the Old Saw Mill in Congleton on 11th March 2023.
‘Our Elizabeth’, the life-size sculpture of Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy, was officially unveiled by The Baroness Lady Hale of Richmond on International Women’s Day (Tuesday 8th March 2022). Watch the BBC coverage here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av-embeds/60666742
The parade led by Beartown Stompers Jazz Band marched from Lawton Street through town to the Bridge Street statue. Children dressed up from ten local primary schools, the Women’s Institute, Guides and many more community groups formed the bursting parade and packed into the busy pedestrian area ahead of the unveiling. Congleton Choral Society and Daven & Mossley school choirs delighted the audience with their performances.
The ceremony was opened by Congleton Town Mayor, Cllr Denis Murphy with speeches from members of Elizabeth’s Group including Chair, Susan Munro and Trustee Kay Wesley.
Lily Smith from Congleton High School read a poem, followed by a reading from Helen Banks of Eaton Bank High School.
Baroness Lady Hale of Richmond spoke passionately about the campaigns and rights Elizabeth Wolstenholme Elmy led and fought for. A countdown was started by the townsfolk who had turned out to meet Elizabeth and Lady Hale had the honour of officially unveiling her to the crowds. Award-winning sculptor Hazel Reeves shared her reflections on creating the bronze statue of Elizabeth.
Residents and visitors enjoyed the blue skies and soaked up the Victorian atmosphere at the side stalls featuring traditional games and a Punch and Judy show with a White Ribbon twist. Thank you to Rotary-Congleton, Congleton Community Projects and all the volunteers who made the event possible.
Elizabeth’s statue will be unveiled on 8th March 2022 in Bridge Street, Congleton, in an exciting event that Elizabeth’s Group is organising with the support of Congleton Town Council.
The statue will be unveiled by The Baroness Lady Hale of Richmond and Sculptor Hazel Reeves, Elizabeth’s Group and Congleton Town Mayor Denis Murphy will be in attendance.
Local schools and other groups and societies from around Cheshire and the country will be marching down the main street (Lawton Street – High Street – Bridge Street) to the statue, commencing at 1pm. There will be speeches, readings and musical performances, including the unveiling itself, through to 2.30pm.
From 11am in the town centre there will be Victorian-themed stalls and sideshows to enjoy and we hope everyone in Congleton will come and join in the fun. If you are planning to come along, please get connected on social media. You can join the Facebook event here.
More details will be added to this page as the timetable is finalised.
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In a momentous week in January, Elizabeth’s Group’s Planning Permission was GRANTED for her statue to stand in the middle of Bridge Street, Congleton, AND her bronze statue was poured at the Bronze Age Foundry at Limehouse, London. Elizabeth’s Group and Sculptor Hazel Reeves attended the pour, which was very exciting. Here you can see parts of Elizabeth, including her head, being poured. For more, see Creating the Statue.
Elizabeth is now on the map, officially! The new Congleton link road was named Wolstenholme Elmy Way on 19th April 2021.
Elizabeth’s Group and some friends walked the road on the 18th, the pre-opening day, in suffragist costume, to celebrate the road name. We met lots of members of the public on bikes or walking, and the majority, we were delighted to find, knew exactly who the road was named after! For more pictures, see the Gallery.
Then on the opening day we hired a vintage Daimler and drove up the new road as part of the Classic Car Cruise! We were in the company of lots of other classic cars and some novelty ones too, like the Batmobile. We waved streamers in suffragist colours and lots of people lined the road and waved at us. We were particularly happy to see and hear a crowd of children calling out ‘votes for women’ as we drove by!
To top it off we were interviewed, and Elizabeth’s story was featured, in the BBC North West Tonight news report, which you can watch here:
Hazel Reeves is not only a great sculptor, she is also committed to redressing the lack of women represented in public art, one statue at a time. Before becoming a sculptor Hazel spent many years promoting women’s rights internationally. Now her passion is for telling stories in bronze of struggles for social justice, as she will be doing with our Elizabeth!
Hazel is delivered the Morley College Penny Lecture on 25th March 2021, entitled Statues of Women – The Politics and the Practice.
Elizabeth’s Group has released a new video for International Women’s Day 2021!
Chair Susan Munro talks about her hero Elizabeth and explains her importance in the development of women’s rights.
Without Elizabeth, women would not be able to own property in their own name, vote, hold office or keep the money we earn. Find out more about the ‘Scourge of Parliament’ in this video (suitable for school audiences):