A sculptor known for trying to redress history through her art is creating the first statue of real-life women for New York’s Central Park, where the only females so honored until now have been fictional characters.Meredith Bergmann’s vision for the sculpture, chosen from 91 submissions, features three women’s rights pioneers — Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth. While honoring their specific efforts on behalf of women’s suffrage, women’s civil rights and the abolition of slavery, Bergmann hopes her latest work will also make a statement about the need to recognize the contributions ofWax statues at at the Occoquan Workhouse Museum in Lorton, Virginia, show the 1917 force-feeding of suffragist Lucy Burns, an American women’s rights advocate who was on hunger strike. (Photo by Diaa Bekheet).“This monument has a very focused message,” she said in an interview at her studio in Ridgefield, Connecticut. “The fact of the monument itself, that it exists at all, that it will be where it is, is the message.”Of the 23 statues of historical figures in the 840-acre, 166-year-old public park, none honors actual women. There are statues of three female fictional characters: Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose and William Shakespeare’s Juliet, who appears with Romeo.There had been a moratorium on erecting any new statues in Central Park. But in 2014, a volunteer, nonprofit group called Monumental Women, made up of women’s rights advocates, historians and community leaders, set out to break what they’ve called the “bronze ceiling” and develop a statue depicting real women. With the help of the Girl Scouts, private foundations and others, they raised $1.5 million in private funding for the 14-foot-tall monument, to be located on the park’s famed Literary Walk. It’s scheduled to be unveiled on Aug. 26, 2020, marking the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which enshrined the right for women to vote.“It’s fitting that the first statue of real women in Central Park depicts three New York women who dedicated their lives to fighting for women’s rights,” said Pam Elam, president of Monumental Women, in a written statement last month after the project received approval from a city commission. “This statue conveys the power of women working together to bring about revolutionary change in our society. It invites people to reflect not just on these women and their work for equality and justice, but on all the monumental women who came before us.”Women’s Suffrage MovementTeaser DescriptionThe Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery looks back at the women’s suffrage movement – one of the longest reform movements in U.S. history – with an exhibition called, “Votes for Women: A Portrait of Persistence.” Curator Kate Clarke Lemay shows us some of the art and artifacts from that era and how creating visual displays for their cause created a different understanding about women’s freedom and voting rights.
Reporter: Julie Taboh, Camera: Adam Greenbaum; Adapted by: Martin SecrestMidway into the massive and multi-faceted project, Bergmann and her assistants have nearly finished sculpting from foam and clay an imagined scene of the three women having a conversation at a table. Truth is speaking, Anthony is organizing and Stanton is writing, which Bergman describes as the three essential elements of activism.The current design is the result of a long process that involved various changes, including the late addition of Sojourner Truth, an African-American abolitionist and women’s rights activist who was born into slavery but escaped to freedom in 1826. It originally included Anthony, a writer, lecturer and abolitionist who fought for the rights of women to vote and own property; Stanton, another leading figure in the women’s voting rights movement, and an abolitionist and author; and a scroll with a list of 17 other women involved in the women’s movement from 1848 to 1920.New Zealand Celebrates Women’s Suffrage Anniversary
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Once the sculpting work is done, likely in the coming weeks, Bergmann said molds will be taken and they will eventually be cast in bronze at a foundry in New York. Detailed work will need to be performed, such as making sure the women’s heads are at the right tilt and the ends of the granite base are curved perfectly.It has become a labor of love for Bergmann, albeit a challenging one.“I haven’t had a project on this scale, with this ferocious of a deadline. And it is, it is nerve-wracking. And I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked,” said Bergmann. “All summer, all fall, this is what I’m doing. And it’s thrilling.”