As Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar wrote in The Park and The People – A History of Central Park: “But if history teaches us anything it is the contingency of particular historical moments, the possibility that change can come from new and unexpected directions.” We must not let this particular historical moment pass us by. New York City has the unique opportunity to make a long-overdue change in the way it recognizes the contributions of women. The creation of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony statue will be a step in the right direction as this city demonstrates that its public spaces reflect the reality of history. By adding statues of real women in Central Park, the city will make a lasting statement to all future visitors, a message written in stone or shaped in bronze, that equality applies to everyone.
from the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Central Park Statue Fund
(President Pam Elam: phone 347-224-8976; email address firstname.lastname@example.org )
Your support is needed to create a statue in Central Park honoring Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and those who fought for woman’s suffrage. There are no statues honoring real women in Central Park. There are statues of Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose, and Juliet (with Romeo), but no tributes to the real women who made this city, state, and nation great. There are numerous representations of the female form (like angels, nymphs and allegorical figures), but statues celebrating the vast and varied contributions of real women are nowhere to be found. A Letter of Intent, as required by NYC Parks Department guidelines on donating works of art, was sent to the Mayor over six months ago by the ECS-SBA Central Park Statue Fund. We have received no direct response from the Mayor’s office despite repeated attempts to follow-up.
Important New York historical milestones regarding Stanton, Anthony, and Woman Suffrage will be celebrated in the near future such as the 200th anniversary of the birth of Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 2015; the New York State woman suffrage centennial in 2017; the national woman suffrage centennial in 2020; and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Susan B. Anthony in 2020. By creating this statue honoring Stanton, Anthony and women who fought for the vote, New York City could be in the center of the nationwide woman suffrage celebration spotlight. But the planning must begin now. The woman suffrage statue is the first step. With this statue, we will be bringing a bit of women’s history to the 40 million people who visit Central Park each year. Your assistance is needed to rectify an injustice to women that has lasted in this city for over 150 years. Let’s make Central Park a discrimination-free zone.
PARTIAL LIST OF ENDORSERS
The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Central Park Statue Fund is pleased to represent a list of distinguished endorsers, some of whom include: Ruth J. Abram, Founder of the Lower East Side Tenement Museum; Jane Alexander, Former Director of the National Endowment for the Arts; Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; Lewis Cullman, Philanthropist; Professor of History Ellen Carol DuBois; Agnes Gund, President Emerita of the Museum of Modern Art; Judy Hart, Superintendent (retired) of the National Women’s Rights Historical Park in Seneca Falls; Deborah L. Hughes, President and CEO of the Susan B. Anthony House and Museum in Rochester; Helen LaKelly Hunt, Philanthropist; Diane Keaton, Performing Artist; Lilly Ledbetter, inspiration for the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; U. S. Representative Carolyn Maloney; Edith Mayo, Curator Emerita for the Political History Division of the Smithsonian Institution; Ana Oliveira, Foundation CEO; Robert M. Pennoyer, Attorney; Roberta Schneiderman, Philanthropist; U.S. Representative Louise Slaughter; Gloria Steinem, Women’s Rights Activist and Author; and Carmen Delgado Votaw, National Board Member of the National Conference of Puerto Rican Women. Our list of endorsers is in formation.
The fact that no real women are honored by statues in the nation’s most famous and most important park is not simply an oversight. There is no need here to document the prejudice that, over the centuries, has limited women’s dreams, opportunities, and possibilities. That prejudice is all too obvious and has lasted all too long. Similarly, it is obvious that men have had, over time, an almost total monopoly over positions of power in the city’s decision-making process. That monopoly is only now beginning to be broken. Through the years, these decision-making males clearly sought to honor themselves and each other in statues and other tributes. Neither is there a need to prove the invaluable role women have played in history. Surely in 2014, most people have access to the fuller and fairer historical record that historians like Dr. Gerda Lerner, and others, have worked so hard to complete. Therefore, it is clear that a more expansive view of historyand of those who made it is needed.The only thing that remains for us to do, as women and men committed to equality and justice, is to correct this egregious situation by honoring some of history’s courageous women. Many women deserve to be honored by statues and monuments in Central Park, but our present proposal focuses only upon the creation of one statue including two women whose valiant work helped change the world’s very definition of democracy: Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. Stanton was largely responsible for organizing the nation’s first woman’s rights convention held in Seneca Falls, New York in 1848. That meeting represented the beginning of a national, later international, movement for women’s rights led by Stanton, Anthony, and others, that continues to the present around the world.
Stanton and Anthony met in 1851 at an anti-slavery meeting and forged a partnership that lasted for over fifty years. Both had New York City and State roots. Stanton was born in upstate New York and moved to New York City in 1862. She died in 1902 in her West 94th Street apartment just blocks from Central Park and is buried at Woodlawn Cemetery. Anthony, whose earlier residence was in Rochester, also lived in New York City for parts of her life. Anthony and Stanton published their newspaper, The Revolution, here in 1868 and founded the National Woman Suffrage Association here in 1869. They organized countless conventions, rallies, marches, and meetings here.
By honoring Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, New York City will also be honoring the biggest nonviolent revolution in the history of this nation — the battle for woman suffrage. And to enhance the Stanton and Anthony statue, we propose that an Honor Roll, listing the names of other women, whose work was crucial to the success of woman suffrage, be inscribed around its base. These extraordinary women would include: Lucy Stone, Sojourner Truth, Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, Mary Church Terrell, Carrie Chapman Catt, Anna Howard Shaw, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Alva Belmont, Harriot Stanton Blatch, and Alice Stone Blackwell. Finally, we wish to add to that Honor Roll a blank space representing the many unnamed others who devoted their lives to obtaining the vote for women. In this way, the new statue will serve as a monument to freedom and democracy as well as a tribute to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
WHAT IS THE ELIZABETH CADY STANTON AND SUSAN B. ANTHONY CENTRAL PARK STATUE FUND?
Our organizing committee is comprised of Pam Elam, women’s rights activist and former New York City Government Executive; Coline Jenkins, the great-great granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and President of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Trust; Dr. Myriam Miedzian, author and former professor of philosophy; and Gary Ferdman, a not-for-profit executive. We are pleased to say that the paperwork is now being drafted to form a New York State not-for-profit corporation with tax exempt status to advance our work. We are very grateful for the pro bono assistance of the New York City law firm of Morrison & Foerster with regard to this matter. We are also pleased to state that we have met with representatives from two other New York City statue campaigns: the Eleanor Roosevelt statue in Riverside Park and the Fred LeBow statue in Central Park. These conversations have been most helpful and offer interesting models for action. As soon as we are given the green light to proceed by the NYC Parks Department, we will begin raising funds to support the Statue Fund campaign and creation of the statue, as well as contributions to provide a $50,000 endowment.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF STATUE SITES IN CENTRAL PARK
As Sara Cedar Miller wrote in Central Park, An American Masterpiece: The constructed park was not the autocratic vision of a single artist and patron but rather the synthesis of diverse opinions on appropriate park use, cultural expectations, and landscape styles that establishes Central Park as an American innovation born out of the democratic process. In 1860, even Calvert Vaux and Frederick Law Olmsted proposed a statue for Central Park, a monument for Andrew Jackson Downing to be placed in the Ramble. In fact, Vaux and Olmsted also planned that statues of famous Americans be placed around Bethesda Terrace, but the project ran out of money. To fully implement his vision, Vaux hoped that private citizens would step up to see that statues were created there. According to Margot Gayle and Michele Cohen in The Art Commission and The Municipal Art Society Guide to Manhattan’s Outdoor Sculpture: “This is the one place in the park where Olmsted and Vaux planned to have an elaborate display of sculpture. They envisioned a gallery of 26 statues and busts honoring distinguished Americans. A lack of funds made this impossible.”
After Vaux and Olmsted, there were two other park locations where statues were suggested. In 1873, the Central Park Board of Commissioners established some guidelines to regulate statues and monuments. The Commissioner’s Rule Number 3 stated that statues “commemorative of men or of events of far reaching and permanent interest shall be placed on The Mall.” Later, they added the requirement that “statues to be placed on The Mall shall be of bronze, and of heroic size.” Finally, most New Yorkers are totally unaware that eighteen “gates,” chiseled into the walls of the park exist bearing the names of categories of people and professions. One example is Women’s Gate at Central Park West and 72nd Street. Originally, the gates were intended to be adorned with statues which reflected the professions cited.
In an 1853 article in the New York Daily Times, Olmsted wrote, “Heaven itself will be dull and stupid if there is no work to be done in it – nothing to struggle for – (and) no chance to make an improvement.” Over the years, many groups and individuals have sought to make “improvements” to Central Park by adding statues. Yet, no women were deemed worthy of inclusion. Thus, historically, as noted above, statues have been suggested by park officials for the Entrance Gates, The Mall, and Bethesda Terrace. And there are many possible locations to consider for our new statue.
It is impossible to fully express the importance of creating this statue. It is also impossible to overestimate the impact it will have on women and girls. It is long past time for New York City to focus on and foster respect for women’s achievements as well as to provide young women with important role models throughout its public spaces. As Setha Low, Dana Taplin, and Suzanne Scheid stated in Rethinking Urban Parks — Public Space and Cultural Diversity: “People need to feel that a public park is for them.” Hopefully, the statue and the educational campaign around it will have an impact on all New Yorkers regardless of gender. In addition, the creation of this statue will focus the nation’s attention on the importance of celebrating the centennial of the ratification of the 19th amendment to the United States Constitution. In this statue campaign, New York City and the State of New York will, again, be leading the way toward equality and challenging this nation to complete the unfinished journey for justice of these woman suffrage pioneers.