First statue of nonfictional women unveiled for Central Park

In Brief

First statue of nonfictional women unveiled for Central Park

Clay model of the Central Park statue of Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth (Courtesy Monumental Women and Beyer Blinder Belle)

A new statue coming to New York City’s Central Park will be the first in that landscape to depict nonfictional women (there are already plenty of pieces representing fictional women, like Mother Goose and Alice in Wonderland).

The statue depicts three women who worked for women’s suffrage (Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Sojourner Truth) and is being unveiled on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. It will sit in the park’s Literary Walk.

Artist Meredith Bergmann designed the sculpture, and the nonprofit Monumental Women and New York-based firm Beyer Blinder Belle facilitated the artwork’s realization.

Photo of a sculptor working on a larger than life clay model
Meredith Bergmann working on the likeness of Sojourner Truth in clay (Megan Douglas)

The sculpture doesn’t come without controversy. When New York City’s Parks Department first announced it, only Anthony and Stanton were included. Critics said that the two white women privileged the suffrage of white women over Black and immigrant women, and Stanton deployed racist and xenophobic tropes in at least one very public speech, making them poor faces for the very diverse movement for the women’s right to vote. Many Black women worked alongside Anthony and Stanton but were represented in the sculpture only as names in a long scroll of paper.

In response, Sojourner Truth was added to the sculpture. But a group of academics wrote a letter raising concerns that a statue showing Anthony, Stanton, and Truth working together would whitewash Anthony’s and Stanton’s often combative relationship with Black activists. Bergmann said she hoped the body language and facial expressions in the statue would convey the dynamic between the three historical figures.