Throughout history, women have been given neither equal opportunities as men nor public recognition for their achievements despite legal barriers, prejudice, and mistreatment. Whatever the reasons for the injustice, the time has finally arrived to honor women with statues in Central Park. Yet at the present time, some people feel that the park has too many statues.
There are numerous women, past and present, worthy of being honored, so many that choosing one woman to represent all would be a foolish endeavor. Further, how many statues of women would be needed to balance the over-representation of men? But doing nothing to rectify the imbalance resolves nothing.
In recent years there has been a movement to place a statue of a woman in Central Park. But who? If we exclude women who are alive or who have already been honored in other New York parks, as well as all political, religious, and highly controversial figures, we still have a considerable field from which to choose. Here are but a few: Marie Curie (physics), Clara Barton (nursing/American Red Cross), Margaret Mead (anthropology), Babe Didrikson Zaharias (sports), Mary Wollstonecraft and Susan B. Anthony (women’s rights), and Coco Channel (fashion/business). In addition, numerous women have been significant figures in the struggle for civil rights (Harriet Tubman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Rosa Parks) and in the arts (Ella Fitzgerald, Frida Kahlo, Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott, Edith Wharton, Katherine Hepburn, and Marilyn Monroe).
If I had my way, several women would be honored on the southern end of the Mall. The now obscure Fitz-Greene Halleck could be balanced by an American woman author, like Edith Wharton. I envision her placed opposite him and shown with a quizzical look, wondering, “Who is that guy?” To keep the Mall for statues of literary figures, we could place two more statues of female authors immediately to the north and leave the rest of the alleé graced primarily by the American elm trees. Other real women could be honored on the park’s perimeter. What location would be better than Women’s Gate (the entrance at West 72nd Street), where there are no statues at all?
Making the invisible visible has to start somewhere, and it already has. An organization has been formed to raise the money and oversee the process of recognizing two notable women. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund has received conceptual approval for a statue to be placed just south of the West 77th Street entrance to the park, opposite the New-York Historical Society. The fund will need to raise enough money to both create the statue and to endow its perpetual maintenance, an estimated $1,000,000 or more. An artist and design will need to be chosen, and various civic groups, including the Landmarks Commission, will need to give approval.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton (left) and Susan B. Anthony (Image from: http://www.history.com/news/9-things-you-may-not-know-about-elizabeth-cady-stanton)
For more about the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund, visit https://www.centralparkwherearethewomen.org The website gives many details about the project, a link to donate toward the statue and information in the News section about the Girl Scout troupe that has been raising funds by selling cookies (in October).