After a Public Outcry, a Central Park Statue of Two White Suffragettes Has Been Redesigned to Include Sojourner Truth

After facing early criticism, plans for Central Park’s first-ever statue dedicated to historical women are being amended.

In July 2018, sculptor Meredith Bergmann and the non-profit organization Monumental Women Statue Fund successfully put forth a design for a statue of American suffragettes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. But not everyone was pleased with the result.

The statue drew criticism from those who felt it suggested that the architects of the suffrage movement were solely white, when in fact African American women such as Ida B. Wells, Sojourner Truth, and Mary Church-Terrell also fought for women’s right to vote.

Yesterday, the group announced that it had amended the design to include Sojourner Truth standing alongside Stanton and Anthony. The original design proposal also included text listing the names of 22 women who participated in the movement, including seven African Americans, but when the Public Design Committee voted to exclude that element, “we knew we needed to go back to the drawing board to create a new design,” said the Monumental Women Statue Fund’s president, Pam Elam, in a statement. “Our goal has always been to honor the diverse women in history who fought for equality and justice,” she said, adding that “it is fitting that Anthony, Stanton, and Truth stand together in this statue as they often did in life.”

The maquette of Meredith Bergmann's Sculpture. Courtesy of the New York Historical Society, photo: Glenn Castellano.

The maquette of Meredith Bergmann’s original sculpture. Photo: Glenn Castellano, courtesy of the New York Historical Society.

There are currently only five statues in New York City dedicated to real women (Alice in Wonderland has a spot, though, as does Mother Goose), a figure that pales in comparison to the 145 statues of historical men (and Central Park alone features 23 of them).

Among the original statue’s most vocal critics was women’s rights pioneer Gloria Steinem, who told the New York Times that the design was “not enough,” and that the proposal made it look like Anthony and Stanton “are standing on the names of these other women.” She added: “I do think we cannot have a statue of two white women representing the vote for all women.”

In this case, the organizers agreed. The newly designed statue is set to be unveiled in Central Park on August 26, 2020, to coincide with the bicentennial of Susan B. Anthony’s birth.

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