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Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument
Photograph: Time Out/Shaye Weaver

The first monument to real women in Central Park is finally up

Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument was unveiled on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.

By
Shaye Weaver
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Women and their fight for equality finally have representation in Central Park.

On what is the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, the nonprofit Monumental Women unveiled its Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument in Central Park—the very first tribute to real women in the park.

The bronze statue by sculptor Meredith Bergmann features suffragists and New Yorkers Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in a middle of a discussion.

Bergmann portrayed them that way because "our work, is unfinished and ongoing," she said. "I hope the monument will challenge viewers to study the history of the struggle for women’s rights and to continue that struggle. Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton did not live to see the enactment of the 19th Amendment, and even 100 years later there is so much left for us to do to win equality and justice for all.”

Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument
Photograph: Time Out/Shaye Weaver

  

The statue was unveiled in the Central Park Mall at a closed ceremony on Wednesday with Monumental Women’s President Pam Elam, NYC Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, and remarks from descendants of Suffragists as well as women’s rights leaders, historians and activists.

It was the culmination of seven years of work by Monumental Woman, which raised $1.5 million in private funding to pay for the statue, including a $500,000 challenge grant from New York Life and donations from Girl Scouts troops of proceeds from cookie sales.

"We’ve been fighting to break the bronze ceiling in Central Park for over seven long years, and we celebrate achieving that goal today," Elam said. "It’s fitting that the first statue of real women in the park depicts women working together to fight for equality and justice, as women will continue to do until the battle is won. We are now calling on other municipalities to join us in creating monuments that honor the many diverse women who helped make those cities great."

You can watch the full unveiling here

According to her organization, there are more than 5,000 outdoor statues of people nationwide, but estimates show that fewer than 400 of them are women.

Central Park does have other female figures, but they're of fictional women. The best-known of these is probably the sculpture of Alice from Alice In Wonderland and Mother Goose.

"As someone who has dedicated much of my life to breaking sexist barriers and clearing a path for other women to live as full and equal members of society, I’m thrilled that we’ve finally broken through one more barrier," said retired FDNY Captain and Monumental Women board member Brenda Berkman. "This Monument is so much more than a statue: it’s a statement that our public spaces must reflect the idea that women finally get the credit and opportunities that they are due."

You can see the statue in person any time—it's located in the Central Park Mall and is interactive. Just scan a QR code or download the Talking Statues app to hear the voices of actors Meryl Streep, Viola Davis, Jane Alexander, Rita Moreno, Zoe Saldana, America Ferrara, who speak as the suffragists.

The app actually includes a script (by Joanne Parrent) that tells the stories behind the women of the monument and an interview with the artist.

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