#Monumental Women: The First Statue of Real Women in Central Park
The Women’s Rights Pioneer Monument in Central Park’s Literary Walk, honoring Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony was unveiled on Wednesday, August 26, 2020, at 7:45 AM.
“A few good women stepped forward to create history in the form of a powerful sculpture to affirm the leading role of women in our history, and its historical importance for New York City, and for the character of our nation,” said Manhattan Borough President, Gail Brewer. “When the struggle for this courageous sculpture began, the City of New York had only five specific sculptures on the subject of real women: Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gertrude Stein, Harriet Tubman, and Golda Meir. None were in Central Park. Monumental Women banned together and set out to break the bronze ceiling, by honoring the three most important women who risked their lives for suffrage. The answer NO came in many forms: The Park is closed to new statues. Women do not want a statue they want a garden. If we say yes to this statue, we will have to say yes to any statue. You have to prove that each of these women had actually set foot into Central Park. Well, it took 70 years to get the vote and only 7 years to get a statue.”
Close up view of the statue 100th anniversary of women getting the right to vote through the passage of the 19th Amendment.
When Congress passed the 14th and 15th amendments, giving voting rights to African American men, Anthony and Stanton were angry and in turn, opposed the legislation because it did not include the right to vote for women. Their belief led them to split from other suffragists. They thought the amendments should also have given women the right to vote. They formed the National Woman Suffrage Association, to push for a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote.
In 1872, Anthony was arrested for voting. She was tried and fined $100 for her crime. This made many people angry and brought national attention to the suffrage movement. In 1876, she led a protest at the 1876 Centennial of the nation’s independence. She gave a speech—“Declaration of Rights”—written by Stanton and another suffragist, Matilda Joslyn Gage.
“Men, their rights, and nothing more; women, their rights, and nothing less.”
Anthony died in 1906, 14 years before women were given the right to vote with the passage of the 19thAmendment in 1920.
Sojourner Truth was born into slavery on November 26, 1797, in Dutch-speaking Ulster County, New York, as “Belle” Baumfree. Bought and sold five times, she would become one of America’s leading abolitionist and women’s rights activist. Truth escaped to freedom in 1826. “After I left the house of bondage, I gave myself a new name, Sojourner Truth. When I left the house of bondage I left everything behind. I wasn’t going to keep nothing of Egypt on me, an’ so I went to the Lord an’ asked him to give me a new name. And he gave me Sojourner because I was to travel up and down the land showing the people their sins and bein’ a sign unto them. I told the Lord I wanted two names ’cause everybody else had two, and the Lord gave me Truth because I was to declare the truth to the people.”
>Elizabeth Cady Stanton was born on November 12, 1815, in Johnstown, New York. Daniel Cady, Stanton’s father, was a prominent Federalist attorney who served one term in the United States Congress (1814–1817) and then became both a circuit court judge and, in 1847, a New York Supreme Court justice. Judge Cady introduced his daughter to the law and, together with her brother-in-law, Edward Bayard, planted the early seeds that grew into her legal and social activism. Even as a young girl, she enjoyed reading her father’s law books and debating legal issues with his law clerks. It was this early exposure to law that, in part, caused Stanton to realize how disproportionately the law favored men over women, particularly married women. Her realization that married women had virtually no property, income, employment, or even custody rights over their own children, helped set her course toward changing these inequities.
As a young woman, Elizabeth Cady met and married Henry Brewster Stanton, with Elizabeth Cady requesting of the minister that the phrase “promise to obey” be removed from the wedding vows. She later wrote, “I obstinately refused to obey one with whom I supposed I was entering into an equal relation.” The couple had seven children. The couple first moved to Boston, Massachusetts, then to Seneca Falls New York.
Each of the women are holding something or carrying something. Each are equipped with an object that identifies them as a traditional statue. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a writer and philosopher, has books by the foremothers of the women’s rights movement under her chair. Susan B, Anthony has her traveling bag, full of documents that she would bring to Stanton’s house to work on speeches with Stanton. In this case, they were fliers from lectures by Sojourner Truth, as well as from women’s conventions and conferences. Sojourner Truth has her characteristic shawl, and her cap, and carries her knitting, which she used as her own self-imaging and messaging. The women corresponded, met at women’s rights conferences, and shared the same stages.
It took 167 years to read the bronze ceiling, in order to make the Real Women Statue happen in Central Park.
Kathy Hochul, the Lieutenant Governor of the State of New York, said, “The journey for women’s rights does not end here in the park – it continues into the future. today is a historic day for women, who have not been properly represented in our nations and in our state’s history. Today all that changes.”