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The only memorial to women’s contributions in World War II depicts empty clothing. Carolyn Dougherty considers what this says about the erasure of women from public spaces. With contributions from Alex Wardrop

Where are the public memorials to commemorate women’s contributions to our past? World War II looms large in the UK’s history, but you will struggle to find many sculptures representing women’s role.

The Paperwomen collective, founded in Bristol in 2010, aims to draw attention to, and in some small ways reverse, the erasure of women from history, specifically their absence from memorials in public places. While doing so it aims to celebrate the women who have contributed to our cities and our pasts.

The monument to the women of World War II commemorates ‘women’, but carefully avoids portraying any actual, physical women – only their empty suits of clothes

Since meeting Paperwomen at the Carnival of Feminist Cultural Activism in York, I’ve become more aware of how images of real women are absent from public spaces.

A striking example of this absence came to my attention recently, on the 500,000-strong March for the Alternative in London on 26 March. As we proceeded down Whitehall, the seat of political power in this country, past larger-than-life-sized bronze portraits of men who led and fought in World War II, I noticed this monument:

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Photo of Women of World War II monument by Rupert Ganzer

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