For Three Suffragists, a Monument Well Past Due


Across the country, monuments honoring racist figures are being defaced and toppled. In New York’s Central Park, one statue is taking shape that aims to amend not only racial but also gender disparities in public art: A 14-foot-tall bronze monument of Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, three of the more prominent leaders in the nationwide fight for women’s right to vote.

Called the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, it is to be unveiled Aug. 26 to commemorate the 100th anniversary this month of the constitutional amendment that finally guaranteed women that right. The sculpture depicts the three figures gathered around a table for what seems to be a discussion or a strategy meeting. Anthony stands in the middle, holding a pamphlet that reads “Votes for Women”; Stanton, seated to her left, holds a pen, presumably taking notes; and Truth appears to be in midsentence.

“I wanted to show women working together,” said Meredith Bergmann, the sculptor chosen from dozens of artists to create the statue. “I kept thinking of women now, working together in some kitchen on a laptop, trying to change the world.”

It will be the park’s first — and only — monument honoring real women, located on Literary Walk. In its 167-year history, the park has been a leafy, lush home to about two dozen statues of men, mostly white, and fictional or mythical female characters (Alice in Wonderland, Shakespeare’s Juliet, and the Angel of the Waters, the winged woman atop Bethesda Fountain) but no historical women.

Though the campaign to install the statue took more than six years (seven if you include the months of discussions that took place before the nonprofit was formed), Monumental Women selected Ms. Bergmann’s design in 2018, giving the artist two years — a short time in the sculpting world, she noted — to bring the suffragists to life.

The proposal that was approved consisted of Anthony and Stanton, and a long scroll cascading from their work desk containing quotations from more than 20 other suffragists.


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