Central Park monument honors women’s rights pioneers

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A bronze statue depicting women’s rights pioneers Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony was unveiled in Central Park on Wednesday, becoming the 167-year-old park’s first monument honoring historical heroines, as opposed to fictional female characters like Alice in Wonderland and Shakespeare’s Juliet.

The 14-foot-tall monument to the three 19th century advocates, dedicated on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the amendment that enshrined women’s right to vote in the U.S. Constitution, joins prominent men including Hans Christian Andersen, Simón Bolívar and Alexander Hamilton who are honored with busts and statues in the 840-acre (340-hectare) New York City park.

“This is a collection of statues of great men who accomplished great things, and the fact that there were no statues of women seemed to mean that the accomplishments of women were meaningless, certainly not worthy of a statue,” sculptor Meredith Bergmann said. “So it’s long overdue, and it’s wonderful that these three great and inspiring and incredibly hardworking activist women are here in Central Park and they can inspire us to continue to fight for equal rights, for fairness and for justice for women, for minority groups, for people of color, for everyone now.”

The monument shows Truth and Stanton seated at a small table as if discussing a point of strategy, with Anthony standing between them. The commission from Monumental Women, a nonprofit that formed in 2014 to raise funds for a suffragist statue in Central Park, originally included just Stanton and Anthony, two white leaders of the fight for women’s equality. Truth, a Black woman who escaped slavery and went on to campaign for abolition as well as women’s rights, was a late addition.

Pam Elam, board president of Monumental Women, said at the dedication ceremony attended by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and elected officials including Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney that a knowledge of women’s history “helps us understand the context of the struggle for equality as well as the continuum of the fight for social change.” She added, “We rethink the past to reshape the future.”

Thirteen-year-old Jaya Shri, whose Girl Scout troop donated cookie proceeds to help pay for the monument, posed in front of it later with two friends. “I think it will inspire a lot of little girls to go out and do what they want to do,” she said. “It’s really amazing.”