Today is the 100th Anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, celebrated in NYC with unveiling of a statue paying homage to three leaders of the Women’s Suffrage movement, which began in New York State.
The 14-foot bronze statue depicts Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth, all three from Upstate New York where the movement began. The statue also was designed by a woman, Meredith Bergmann of Connecticut.
The Women’s Suffrage statue is in Central Park’s Literary Walk, alongside such fictional women as Alice in Wonderland and Mother Goose.
This is the first statue of real women in the 172-year history of Central Park, and it was a seven year effort by a group called the Monumental Women’s Statue Fund to break what it described as Central Park’s “Bronze Ceiling”.
It’s the first new commemorative monument in Central Park since 1965, and only the fifth statue in all of New York City to honor women of history.
The others are Joan of Arc and Eleanor Roosevelt in Riverside Park, Harriet Tubman in Harlem and Gertrude Stein in Bryant Park
According to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Art Inventories catalogue, as of 2011, a little more than 7% of the nearly 5,200 public outdoor statues across the U.S. represented women.
Central Park has 23 statues honoring men, and even one honoring a male dog, Balto, the Alaskan malamute that led a sled dog team in the delivery of diptheria antitoxins to the citizens of Nome, Alaska in 1924. The statue was dedicated in 1925 from money raised by NYC dog lovers.
NYC has done far better naming parks, gardens and other attractions for women of history with a connection to NYC, including two First Ladies, a Revolutionary War heroine, and an Olympic swimming legend, and the latst one renamed this month for an LGBTQ leader.
(Photo courtesy Michael Bergmann)
About the Women’s Suffrage Sculpture
The Monumental Women’s Statue Fund raised $1.5 million to fund the statue’s consturction.
Originally, it was to include only Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cody Stanton, but historians voiced concerns about the omission of Sojourner Truth’s legacy, and she was added to a redesign, even though it depicts a fictional meeting of the trio – an artist’s take on a symbolic chapter of American history.
Although all three women fought for women’s suffrage, they held widely different beliefs on issues such as whether Black men should be allowed to vote.
The Monumental Women’s Statue Fund raised $1.5 million to fund the statue’s constrction.
The Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument in Central Park depicts the three seated or standing around a table.
But they are not posed as relaxed. This is not a social event for a cup of tea.They are depicted are leaning into a serious conversation about the work ahead for the movement.
Both at the edge of their seats, Truth has her hands open and Stanton has a pen and paper as if they are strategizing their next move. But the interpretation of the conversation depicted in the monument is up to the individual viewer, sculptor Bergmann told WBUR recently.
There sculpture has are little hidden surprises as well. Stanton’s dress has sunflower motifs, a symbol from when the young suffragist began to write and publish editorials under the pseudonym “Sunflower”, to avoid the disapproval of her family.
The sunflower later became an emblem of the suffrage movement.
Bergmann has sculpted historical women before. She also created the Boston Women’s Memorial that features Abigail Adams, Phillis Wheatley and Lucy Stone.
About the Women’s Suffrage Movement
Both Stanton and Anthony strongly opposed the ratification of the 15th Amendment, which granted Black men the right to vote. Stanton made it clear in her fight for voting rights that when she said women, she meant white. Black suffragists were often told to march at the back of a protest.
Yet Sojourner Truth, who was formerly enslaved, carried her fight against slavery into the suffrage movement with her famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech and worked with Anthony and Stanton despite severe differences in opinion over Black Americans’ right to vote.
Black women like Sojourner Truth were part of the Women’s Suffrage movement although they would not benefit from the 19th Amendment in the South, where the same Jim Crow restrictions that kept Black men away from the polls also prevented Black women from voting.
It took until the 1965 Civil Rights movement and passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, not the 19th Amendment, that finally guaranteed their right to vote, a struggle that continues to this day.
The Women’s Suffrage Movement began in Upstate New York, in Rochester, Seneca and Seneca Falls, where the Anthony, Stanton and Sojourner lived and organized.
Read my article for the Everett Potter Travel Report on museum exhibits around the USA commemorating the anniversary, and the historic homes of Anthony, Stanton and Sojourner you can visit in New York State.