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Central Park’s First Statue of Historic Women Will Honor Two Suffragettes

On the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York state, the Parks Department dedicated a site for a forthcoming statue of two of the movement’s leaders: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, seated, and Susan B. Anthony, standing (between 1880-1902) (courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)
Elizabeth Cady Stanton, seated, and Susan B. Anthony, standing (between 1880–1902) (courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division)

On the centennial of women’s suffrage in New York state, the New York City Parks Department dedicated the future site of a statue in Central Park that will feature two of the movement’s greatest figures. Called the “Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Woman Suffrage Movement Monument,” it will be the first representation of historic women in Central Park’s public statuary.

The West Side Rag reported the news on November 5, sharing a statement from the Parks Department, in which it noted that along with Stanton and Anthony, “the monument will honor the memory of the many others who worked tirelessly to advance women’s rights, including Sojourner Truth, Lucy Stone, Mary Church Terrell, Anna Howard Shaw and Ida B. Wells-Barnett.” The department added that the site in Central Park, along its Mall, was intended for commemorative sculptures, so it is “in accordance with the dictates of the park’s original designers.”

In 2015, the Parks Department gave conceptual approval to the monument, which at the time was being championed through a grassroots effort from the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund. When Hyperallergic reported on the Fund,  its co-vice president Myriam Miedzian and secretary and treasurer Gary Ferdman, jointly explained why they selected the two women:

They were by far the most obvious and deserving choices. Stanton and Anthony were the most effective and long-lasting leaders of the largest non-violent revolution in our nation’s history. They made enormous intellectual and organizational contributions to the struggle for a wide range of women’s rights. Their achievements should inspire generations of women to come and educate generations of men.

The Central Park Conservancy stated on Twitter that the completed statue is “slated for a 2020 unveiling on the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.” It will be part of the Literary Walk on the Mall, which currently features statues of authors Fitz-Greene Halleck, Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and William Shakespeare.

Statue of Shakespeare on the Central Park Literary Walk (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)

Central Park was originally designed with only one statue commission: Emma Stebbins’s 1873 “Angel of the Waters” for Bethesda Terrace. It was groundbreaking in that it was the first public art commission in New York City given to a woman, but the person it depicted was allegorical (albeit believed to be based on Stebbins’s lover Charlotte Cushman). Out of the 29 statues in the park, none are currently of real women. There are only fictional women, created by men, including Lewis Carroll’s titular character from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Shakespeare’s Juliet.

In fact there are only five public statues of historic women in all of New York City, so the addition of Stanton and Anthony is significant in giving women’s history representation in the city’s monuments. The Parks Department announcement joins other commemorations of the 100th anniversary of the women’s right to vote in New York State, including Beyond Suffrage: A Century of New York Women in Politics at the Museum of the City of New York, and Cornell University Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections display of rare ephemera related to the movement. While women were granted the right to vote in New York in 1917, it would not be achieved nationally until 1920.

The Central Park Literary Walk (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
The Central Park Literary Walk (photo by the author for Hyperallergic)
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