International Women's Day: Let's welcome statues of great Scottish women onto our streets

Outside the national theatre in Oslo, on the outskirts of the Studenterlunden Park, is a beautiful statue that has a place in the country’s history.

Wenche Foss statue near the National Theatre in Oslo, Norway. The bronze statue celebrates the illustrious 76 year career of Norwegian actress Wenche Foss (Photo: Hannah Brown).
Wenche Foss statue near the National Theatre in Oslo, Norway. The bronze statue celebrates the illustrious 76 year career of Norwegian actress Wenche Foss (Photo: Hannah Brown).

With arms outstretched, Norwegian actor Wenche Foss stands in a bed of flowers, beckoning the viewer to look at her and her achievements.

Foss became famous for countless performances in TV shows, movies and theatre.

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She was also an activist for gay rights and a humanitarian for people with disabilities and cancer.

I know this because I wanted to learn more about this inspiring bronze figure who stood before me.

Foss was the first woman I had seen memorialised in this way, barring the exception of a Queen Victoria in the centre of Glasgow, my home city.

Statues of men all dominate my city with their horses and their finery and, well, their “manliness”.

There are only four statues of women – Mary Barbour, Isabella Elder and Dolores Ibarrubi and Queen Victoria – across the entire city. To put this into context, there are 11 statues of men in George Square alone.

"Sisterhood is key to the feminist movement and general monuments honour that as a way of instigating progress”, writes Sara Sheridan in her book ‘Where are the women?’. which reimagines Scotland where all the streets and statues are dedicated to women.

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Ms Sheridan imagines a Glasgow that “proudly displays statues of suffragettes” and each fictional street, building, statue and monument is dedicated to a real woman.

The Gorbals Swimming Pool turns into Graham Baths – dedicated to Lilias Violet Graham (1917-2008) who established a holiday scheme for children from disadvantaged backgrounds that still runs today.

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Ms Sheridan’s work is not a novella, not a short read on a magazine page, but a 447-page history detailing the lives of countless Scottish women who are worthy of statues.

Seeing female representation in the environments we grow up in is so important, both for society and for inspiring women that they can and will be remembered.

As today marks International Women’s Day, it’s important to remember there are so few statues of women not because there are no great women in Scotland, but because we have chosen to ignore them.

So, like Wenche Foss, let us stretch out our arms and welcome these women onto our streets.

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