There are 23 monuments in Central Park, including a Polish king, a Prussian naturalist and a sled dog. Not one depicts real women. That will change next.
On Oct. 21, the NYC Parks Department and the New York City Public Design Commission approved a statue designed by the volunteer-led non-profit Monumental Women. The statue will feature women’s rights pioneers New Yorkers Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth.
It will be unveiled Aug. 26, 2020 at Central Park’s famed Literary Walk, which will also mark the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, when women won the right to vote. Currently, the park has statues of fictitious women, including Mother Goose, Alice in Wonderland, Juliet (with her Romeo), and numerous representations of the female form (like angels, nymphs and allegorical figures).
The Power of Women Working Together
Made up of advocates, historians and community leaders, Monumental Women raised $1.5 million to fund the new monument. Pam Elam, president of Monumental Women, said it is nice to see all of their hard work come to fruition.
“With this statue we are finally breaking the bronze ceiling,” Elam said in a statement. “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 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. We are pleased to have broken through every city bureaucratic barrier to make this happen.”
The statue also had the support of elected officials and community boards. One person who was especially outspoken was Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
“Today is truly a monumental moment,” Brewer said in a statement. “We will finally have a statue in Central Park depicting real women, and I couldn’t be more proud to have taken part in this process. This would not have been possible without the hard work of Monumental Women and all the people—mostly women and girls—supporting them.”
The Work of a Woman Sculptor
The monument is being designed by nationally recognized sculptor Meredith Bergmann. Bergmann is known for exploring issues of history, social justice, race, human rights and disabilities. Her work has been shown in more than two dozen exhibitions and appears in 10 institutional collections. Her work includes the September 11th Memorial at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. Her FDR Hope Memorial for Roosevelt Island will be unveiled this year.
“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 status working together to change the world.”