Skip to main content

Portrait of Millicent Garrett Fawcett set to join Parliament’s Art Collection during Women's History Month

28 February 2023

An important portrait of Millicent Garrett Fawcett, one of the leading figures in the fight for women’s suffrage, has been acquired for Parliament by the Speaker’s Advisory Committee on Works of Art. Set to be unveiled as part of Women’s History Month on 27th March, the work will be the first-ever representation of the celebrated ‘suffragist’ to appear in the Parliamentary Art Collection.

Dating from around 1910, the oil on canvas portrait shows Fawcett in the academic robes of the University of St. Andrews, which awarded her an Honorary Doctorate in Law (LLD) for services to women’s education in 1899 – the first woman to be so honoured. She is shown holding a quill, likely sitting in her home in Gower Street, London.

Portraits of suffrage campaigners are rare. Painted by the critically-acclaimed artist Annie Louisa Swynnerton – who also painted friends and family of Fawcett – the acquisition represents a rare opportunity for the Committee to acquire a highly significant work that not only portrays a major figure in the fight for women’s suffrage – but also created by an artist who was herself involved in the same movement.

The Committee has been actively collecting suffrage related objects for more than 12 years, as well as seeking to broaden the diversity of the Parliamentary Art Collection with more women sitters and artists.

Fawcett and Swynnerton

Millicent Garrett Fawcett (1847-1929) was one of the most prominent campaigners in the fight for women’s suffrage and leader of the National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies, who campaigned by ‘constitutional’ means. She led suffrage demonstrations and marches, regularly wearing the doctoral robes shown in Swynnerton’s portrait.   

Annie Louisa Swynnerton (1844-1933) was herself a leading figure in the various social and political movements that characterised the late 19th and early 20th centuries, as well as a uniquely successful female artist. An admirer and friend of Fawcett, Swynnerton became involved with the fight for women’s political rights and joined the Manchester Society of Women’s Suffrage in 1880.

Swynnerton made history in 1922 as the first woman to be elected an associate of the Royal Academy of Arts since its founding in 1768.

Unveiling and opportunities to view

The work is due to be formally unveiled by the Committee at its annual Women’s History Month lecture – to be held in Parliament on the 27th March 2023. This year’s lecture will focus jointly on Fawcett and Swynnerton, examining their lives, legacies and relationship to Parliament.

Given its importance within the Collection, it is expected that the work will be sited in a prominent location in the publicly accessible area of the Palace of Westminster, with additional interpretative material available on the Heritage Collections website. Installation is expected to be complete by the Summer.

Further information

Image: Dame Millicent Fawcett, painting by Annie Louisa Swynnerton ©UK Parliament WOA 7739