Sculptor Denise Dutton has completed and delivered the much anticipated bronze maquette of Mary Clarke, the first suffragette to die for women’s right to vote – and did so in time for Mary’s birthday on 12th December.
Cllr Alan Robins, the Mayor of Brighton & Hove received it on behalf of the Appeal and the people of Brighton & Hove in a brief socially-distanced ceremony on the evening of Friday 11 December 2020 at Brighton Town Hall. A more elaborate event to welcome the figure had had to be cancelled.
The Mayor thanked Denise Dutton saying he was “honoured” to receive the maquette. Chair of Trustees Jean Calder also thanked Denise for the maquette and expressed gratitude to the Council for its support and generosity in helping to fund the maquette and the planned statue. Jean also conveyed the Appeal’s thanks to the Mayor for his “unstinting support”.
The next day, on the 12 December 2020, the charity’s trustees met the sculptor once again to launch its Christmas Appeal, aimed at funding the next phase of the campaign. The time-limited appeal will last from 12th December to the 31st January and will aim to raise £5,000 in the first instance as “A Gift for Mary”.
December was a very significant month for Mary. Born in December, she spent her last birthday in Holloway Prison. Released on 23rd December 1910, she died of a brain haemorrhage on Christmas Day.
The maquette represents Mary released from prison, in Brighton, a day or two before her death.
She wears a suffragette sash and on her left arm carries a last few copies of Votes for Women, the suffragette newspaper she regularly sold in Brighton. The front page of the November 1910 issue depicts the events of ‘Black Friday’, when, a few days before she was arrested and imprisoned, she and hundreds of other women were assaulted by police.
Mary wears the Hunger Strikers’ medal and walks with gentle dignity over the implements used in forcible feeding, which are imbedded in the surface of the plinth. Her clothing, accurate for the period, subtly references her background as an artist, her love of flowers and her time in prison. She gestures towards a lamp at her feet which she has placed there for others to pick up. This refers to the words of Isabella McKeown spoken after Mary’s death “Her they must not mourn in silence. They must take the torch from her and light the darkness…”. Mary’s hand is positioned low, so that children can hold it.
A low plinth carries the above quotation from Isabella McKeown and others from Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence and Mary’s sister Emmeline Pankhurst – as well as Mary’s own courageous words: “I am glad to pay the price for freedom..”
Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence’s statement about Mary as the “..first woman martyr who has gone to death for this cause..”, provides another iconic quotation on the sides of the low plinth, while Emmeline Pankhurst’s moving words: “She is the first to die. How many must follow…” are etched into its surface, curving around the line of the feeding tube embedded in the bronze.
Those wishing to give a special ‘Gift for Mary’ can do so online via Local Giving or PayPal. Please invite your friends to visit our website or go directly to https://localgiving.org/charity/mary-clarke-statue-appeal/ or https://www.paypal.com/gb/fundraiser/charity/3881341. If they wish they can send cheques to The Mary Clarke Statue Appeal, c/o the Regency Town House, 13 Brunswick Square, Hove BN3 1EH.