New York’s Central Park is set to unveil a statue of women’s rights pioneers Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth — marking the park’s first statue of real-life women.
“You’ve heard of breaking the glass ceiling,” said Meredith Bergmann, the sculptor of the piece. “This sculpture is breaking the bronze ceiling.”
The statue will be unveiled Wednesday morning, and comes 100 years after the passage of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote. It honors three key figures in the women’s rights movement with roots in New York, each of whom died before American women gained the right to vote.
Central Park is unveiling a statue of women’s rights pioneers Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton Credit: CNN
“It’s wonderful that now the city of New York and Central Park are focusing on seeing women’s accomplishments as worthy of statuary,” Bergmann said.
Across New York City, only five of the city’s 145 statues of historic figures depict women, according to Pam Elam, the President of Monumental Women, the organization that has spearheaded the creation of the new statue.
A clay model of the monument of women’s rights pioneers. Credit: Michael Bergmann
Historians told CNN that public statues generally reflect a society’s values, and the lack of female representation revealed a broader truth about America.
The lack of statues of women also reflects who decides what history gets told, said Erika Doss, professor of American Studies at the University of Notre Dame.
“History is written by and about men and those are the statues and memorials and monuments that go up,” she said.
Sojourner Truth added to initial plan
Meredith Bergmann works on the monument of women’s rights pioneers ahead of its coming unveiling. Credit: Michael Bergmann
To address the ongoing issue, the non-profit group Monumental Women began pushing for a women’s rights statue in Central Park in 2014.
The initial plan was to design a statue featuring Stanton and Anthony working on a document. However, the organization received criticism for minimizing the role of non-White women in the suffrage movement.
Washington, who wrote a biography on Sojourner Truth, said Stanton and Anthony were not the only founders of women’s rights.
“The lack of statues of women of color compounds the issue of a lack of statues of women. How many women of color do we have statues of?” she said, noting how few there are.
Last year, Truth was added to the Central Park monument to better reflect that history.
A clay model of the women’s rights pioneers monument. Credit: Megan Douglas
“They all were contemporaries. They all did share a lot of the same meetings and speech opportunities. They were on the same stages, so why not have them all on the same pedestal,” Elam said. “We have to make sure that the historical record both respects and reflects all women and people of color.”
Truth and Stanton are sitting at a small table while Anthony stands behind the table with a traveling bag. The scene depicts a moment in an indoor space because much of women’s political activism originated in the home, Bergmann explained.
“My hope for little girls who see these statues is that they will be inspired to do serious work for social change with the knowledge that women have been doing this kind of work for centuries,” Bergmann said, “and their rights descend from the work these women did.”