In honor of the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, when women won the right to vote, New York City will welcome a Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument to its grounds on Aug. 26.
Designed and sculpted by nationally-known artist Meredith Bergmann ’76, the statue depicts and honors women’s rights pioneers Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
The statue will be located in Central Park and will be the first statue depicting real women in the park’s 166-year history. Currently, there are 23 statues of real men in Central Park; women are “represented” through fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose, and Juliet (with Romeo).
“Like the women I’m portraying, my work is meant to raise questions and to provoke thought,” Bergmann said. “My hope is that all people, but especially young people, will be inspired by this image of women of different races, different religious backgrounds, and different economic statuses working together to change the world.”
Bergmann, who also created the Boston Women’s Memorial and the September 11th Memorial at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, depicts the women working together at a table, each representing an essential element of activism: Sojourner Truth is speaking, Susan B. Anthony is organizing, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is writing.
“They are not dreaming, but working. They are an allegory of sisterhood, cooperation, and activism, but they are not just an allegory, as so many sculptures of women are,” Bergmann wrote in her artist’s statement. “In this way I am making a contemporary work that will, as required, harmonize with its 19th-century surroundings.”
The statue was conceived and supported by the Monumental Women’s Statue Fund, an all-volunteer-led nonprofit made up of women’s rights advocates, historians, and community leaders. Monumental Women began working to develop the statue and secure a prominent location on Central Park’s famed Literary Walk in 2014. The organization also raised $1.5 million in private funding to pay for the statue’s construction.
“With this statue, we are finally breaking the bronze ceiling,” said Pam Elam, president of Monumental Women. “It’s fitting that the first statue of real women in Central Park depicts three New York women who dedicated their lives to fighting for women’s rights. This statue conveys the power of women working together to bring about a revolutionary change in our society. It invites people to reflect not just on these women and their work for equality and justice, but on all the monumental women who came before us.”