Competition launched to honour RSPB founder Emily Williamson with statue - RSPB

Emily Williamson, who in 1889 founded the all-female Society for the Protection of Birds (later the RSPB), is to be honoured with a statue at her former home in Fletcher Moss Park in Didsbury, Manchester.

Four short-listed maquettes will be unveiled in July 2021, marking the centenary of the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act – the triumph of Emily Williamson’s long campaign. The Act was critical in saving thousands of bird species around the world from being hunted to extinction for the millinery trade, including the Great and Little Egret and the Great Crested Grebe.

Between 1870 and 1920, bird skins were imported to Britain by the ton for the plumage trade. At its Edwardian peak, the trade was worth some £20 million a year (around £200 million in today’s money).

Emily Williamson bravely called out the insatiable slaughter of birds for millinery. She pushed back against the relentless tide of fashion. Together with Eliza Phillips and Etta Lemon, she grew her fledgling Society for the Protection of Birds to become, eventually, the UK’s biggest conservation charity: the RSPB.

Campaigning remains central to what the RSPB does today. But its female founder has not been celebrated by history. Emily Williamson’s significant contribution to nature has all but been left out of the conservation narrative.

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Posted On: 09/12/2020

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