Location: 67th Street, mid-Park (on the Mall)
Artist/Designer: Meredith Bergmann
Installation: August 26, 2020
Funding: Public subscription
This monument honoring three women who fought for civil rights is unique in several respects. Most significantly, it depicts three real women: from left to right, Sojourner Truth (1797–1883), Susan B. Anthony (1820–1906), standing, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815–1902). Prior to the monument’s unveiling, 28 actual men were so honored in the Park with full statues or low-relief busts. No historic women were depicted here and only four real women were represented in the entire City (Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt, Gertrude Stein, and Harriet Tubman).The statues of women that were in the Park are fictional, like Alice in Wonderland or Mother Goose. Also depicted are allegorical figures, like Winged Victory leading General William Tecumseh Sherman and his horse, and Pomona, the goddess of abundance at the Pulitzer Fountain. Also unique about this sculpture is that it features three real people. There are other ensemble sculptures, like the soldiers of the 107th Infantry Memorial, but none show a group of actual humans in action.
The all-volunteer, not-for-profit group Monumental Women formed in 2014 to increase awareness of women’s role in history and, specifically, to have a sculpture of real women in Central Park. The organization commissioned sculptor Meredith Bergmann to create the piece. The unveiling was on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed American women the right to vote. The fund-raising campaign to portray real women provided the $1.5 million needed to create and maintain the monument; the donations included proceeds from Girl Scouts cookie sales.
The process for creating the monument was not without controversy. Bergmann first conceived the ensemble with just Stanton and Anthony, two prominent activists who worked closely together. During the public review of the proposed design, concerns were raised that women of color were being denied recognition of their significant role in the fight for equal rights. Sculptor Bergmann revised her initial concept in 2019 to include the three activists.
The sculpture itself does not depict a specific event. In reality, there were conflicts among civil rights activists involving such issues as whether Black men should gain the right to vote before women would be so enfranchised. Similarly, some of the white women of the suffrage movement did not want to work closely with Black women on their common cause. Despite these differences, Stanton, Anthony, and Truth did band together at times.
For this monument, the women are shown working, interacting. Notice the action: Sojourner Truth speaking, Susan B. Anthony organizing, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton writing—all essential elements of the fight for rights. Beneath the table, Bergmann placed a traveling bag with documents plus several essential texts of the early women’s rights movement.
Women’s Rights Pioneers
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