Design for Statue of Suffragette Lady Rhondda Revealed in Newport

Design for Statue of Suffragette Lady Rhondda Revealed in Newport

The design for a statue of Suffragette Lady Rhondda (Margaret Haig Thomas) has been revealed in a special event organised by Monumental Welsh Women, in partnership with the Statue for Lady Rhondda group. 

A maquette of the statue, created by artist Jane Robbins was unveiled tonight (Monday 6th March) during an evening celebrating Lady Rhondda at St Woolos Cathedral, Newport.

The monument will be the fourth of five statues of named Welsh women being erected by the Monumental Welsh Women group following a national campaign to honour Wales’ hidden heroines, broadcast by BBC Wales in 2019.

Lady Rhondda was a Suffragette, a global business woman, a journalist and Editor and lifelong campaigner for women’s equality. Her 40 year campaign for female peers resulted in women being able to sit in the House of Lords. Sadly, she died before the law she fought for was changed, too late to take her own seat.

Sculptor Jane Robbins is known for her figurative works, specialising in the human form. She is passionate about the creation of lasting, inspirational sculptures and embracing traditional craftsmanship. Previous works include a statue of Lynda McCartney in Campbelltown Museum, Scotland and a bust of Suffragette leader Emmeline Pankhurst for the Pankhurst Centre in Manchester.

This is the first time that the public has seen the proposed design, which will continue to be refined and worked upon until it is cast in bronze. Jane unveiled her maquette, a miniature version of the final statue, in St Woolos Cathedral on Monday evening, at a sold-out event hosted by Cherry Vann, Bishop of Monmouth.

The completed statue will be erected in Newport city centre in 2024.

Jane Robbins said,

“To depict the dignity and strength of Margaret Haig Thomas, a classical figurative sculpture that depicts the likeness of the woman is vital, but I have combined that with a more abstract and contemporary plinth base which is set at a 45 degree angle, along with a life cast circle of hands of people who are alive today – making the statue of the here and now and not just a historical figure. The scale of the monument will be life and a quarter, which will make the statue stand at 7 feet – which is imposing but not too monumental to feel overbearing. I want her to be accessible and engaging to the people of Newport”

“I wanted to include a narrative about her survival from the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915 as I think this contributed to her strength and courage and indeed shaped her whole life.  Her stance in this sculpture is one of fearlessness and a leaning toward the future.”  The sculpture will be known as ‘The Figurehead’ and life casting of some of the hands to be included in the sculpture will take place at the event on Monday.  The artist will continue to work on refining the model before it is cast in Bronze.

Helen Molyneux from Monumental Welsh Women said,

‘We are proud to reveal the design for our fourth statue of a real Welsh woman. Lady Rhondda’s achievements were vast and diverse – from her political campaigning, to her pioneering business accomplishments to her influential journalism and Jane has caught her spirit, courage and determination in a truly beautiful and imposing sculpture which we hope will be a source of inspiration for the people – and particularly the girls and women – of Newport.’

This will be the fourth statue commissioned by the Monumental Welsh Women project to celebrate the achievements of Wales’ hidden heroines – the women whose contributions to Welsh life and culture have been largely overlooked because of the era they were born in.

The first, award-winning statue of Wales’s first black head teacher, Betty Campbell was unveiled in Cardiff in September 2021 to critical acclaim. The second, of Elaine Morgan the evolutionary theorist and dramatist, was unveiled in Mountain Ash in March of 2022, while the third, of Cranogwen the master mariner and poet will be unveiled in June 2023.’

Julie Nicholas from the Statue for Lady Rhondda Campaign said,

‘We are delighted to reveal the maquette by Jane Robbins for the Lady Rhonda statue. Jane’s design represents the story of Lady Rhondda and her many achievements, as well as paying homage to the story of Newport, where the statue will be situated. Jane has cleverly incorporated a steel base into the monument, reflecting the local industry and Lady Rhondda’s role as one of the few female industrialists of the early twentieth century, who once sat on the board of the city’s steelworks.

Lady Rhondda was a figurehead across multiple aspects of British life in the twentieth century, she led the way economically, politically and culturally, in many ways that we still benefit from today. The details in Jane’s monument shows us Lady Rhondda’s campaigning history as she wears her suffragette sash, and carries a copy of Time & Tide, the interwar newspaper that she founded, close to her heart. The sphere surrounding the statue, reminds us that Lady Rhondda continues to be an important and inspirational woman of history; she is linked to and leading a ring of hands, that will be cast from the real handshapes of 21st century Welsh women and children”.