Weʼre raising £100,000 to fund a project to create a statue of Emily Williamson, founder of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.
- Didsbury, Manchester
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Who Was Emily Williamson?
An inspiring Victorian woman who channelled her outrage into activism.
Emily Williamson loved birds, hated cruelty, and was appalled by the fashion for feathers. Determined to halt the cruel plumage trade, she invited her friends to tea at The Croft, Didsbury, and asked them to sign a pledge to 'Wear No Feathers'. And so the Society for the Protection of Birds was born, in 1889. All of its members were women.
Emily's campaign snowballed. It triumphed with the Plumage Act of 1921, banning the import of exotic feathers. Countless bird species were saved from extinction, and the RSPB evolved into the powerful conservation charity it is today. Yet few, today, have heard of its founder.
Why does she need a statue?
A statue can be a powerful catalyst for change.
Today we are facing a climate emergency. Our skies are emptying of birds. A statue of Emily Williamson will provide a focus for a new generation of young people, including girls, helping them to understand the value of nature and the power of activism. We need to fight for our birds and biodiversity.
Emily Williamson's story is an inspiring one. One voice can make a difference.
Where will the statue go?
In Fletcher Moss Park, Didsbury, South Manchester – the beautiful landscaped gardens created by Emily and her husband Robert Williamson, who lived at The Croft 1882-1912. It's one of the North West of England's most valued open spaces; a nature-lovers' haven rich in birdlife and flora. In 2019, Fletcher Moss Park won a ‘UK’s Best Loved Park’ award from Fields in Trust.
On 1 July 2021 four shortlisted maquettes were unveiled here at the centenary of the Plumage Act - Emily Williamson's bird protection victory; a milestone in conservation history. Clare Abbatt, Billie Bond, Laury Dizengremel and Eve Shepherd's designs then went on tour through 12 RSPB reserves, gathering votes. Take a look at their designs and hear more about Emily:
Who's the sculptor and what's the timeline?
On 13 November 2021 at Manchester Art Gallery, Eve Shepherd was announced the winner of the Emily Williamson Statue Competition. Shepherd is renowned for the depth of her research, and her iconoclastic approach to public artwork. Her statue of Emily Williamson will be an inspiring monument not just to a woman, but to the beauty and vulnerability of birdlife.
'Emily was a visionary...'
'I feel humbled and privileged to sculpt such an important pioneer and eco-activist,' says Eve Shepherd. 'Emily Williamson was a visionary; a quiet, yet stoic woman, who stood against the norms of her day. She co-created a legacy, the RSPB – a charity that has saved countless bird lives and protected precious natural habitats for future generations to enjoy. In my eyes Emily is a shining beacon of how we can save our fragile ecosystem in these unprecedented times.
'Emily Williamson was forgotten by history because of her gender. This statue will be both a triumph and a milestone on the journey towards fair representation of women within public sculpture – though we still have some distance to go! I am delighted and excited to have been selected to be part of this.' https://www.eveshepherd.com/
The sculpture will be unveiled in 2023 in Fletcher Moss Park by Emily's great great niece, the bird scientist Dr Melissa Bateson.
Who's funding this statue?
A combination of crowd funding, sales of a limited edition of twenty of the winning design by Eve Shepherd, and corporate sponsorship. Contact email@example.com to discuss purchasing a maquette, and sponsorship opportunities.
Who's running the campaign?
Didsbury councillor Andrew Simcock and author Tessa Boase are leading the team, along with the RSPB's CEO, Beccy Speight.
We have past form in getting statues done: the Emmeline Pankhurst statue campaign for Manchester was conceived and successfully run by Andrew, unveiled 2018. We also have experience in getting stories out there: Tessa's book about the RSPB's surprising origins, 'Etta Lemon: The Woman Who Saved the Birds' continues to inspire readers with its story of early eco activism (Standing Up for Nature Book of the Year ).
L-R: Andrew Simcock, Beccy Speight, Eve Shepherd, Tessa Boase.
We're delighted to have you on board. As Emily Williamson showed us: from small beginnings, great things grow. To keep up to date with our campaign, visit our website and subscribe to our newsletter.
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Leave a message of support
Dec 4, 2022
Fantastic to have a woman recognised for her pioneering conservation work. Shame it has taken so long. But the amazing statue will & its location will be fitting and a talking point for the future.
Nov 15, 2022
A great story that needs to be shared to inspire future generations of conservationists. Beautiful maquette. Full sizes will be magnificent.
Oct 8, 2022
Such a nice way to remember this lady's work.
Oct 7, 2022
Once again,women striving for recognition and merit . Emily deserves to be recorded in history and by the public as an eco-defender. She did important work and look what became of it! Make her visible
Aug 31, 2022
Just one of Manchester’s great pioneering women. Very pleased to contribute. I went to college 50 years ago in the Williamson Building on Oxford Road.
Kate Bannister Littleboy
Aug 16, 2022
Wonderful to know about Emily Willianson and the other women who started the campaign to stop the slaughter of birds.
Jul 17, 2022
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About the fundraiser
Manchester's unsung conservation & social welfare pioneer: Founded the Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in Didsbury, the Gentlewoman's Employment Association, the Princess Christian Training College for Nurses, & the Loan Training Fund for women's further education.