Our museums and public spaces are filled with statues the commemorate notable figures in history. But, if you take a moment to notice, almost all of those statues commemorate men. In New York City, only 5 out of the city’s 150 statues are women. In San Francisco, women are represented in only 2 of the 87 statues throughout the city. The National Statuary Hall in Washington D.C. has only 9 statues dedicated to women in its 100 statue collection.
Certainly, history doesn’t lack women worthy of celebration and tribute, and cities around the country are finally starting to give these women their due. Utah is sending a statue of Dr. Martha Hughes Cannon to Statuary Hall in recognition of her work as public health advocate and the first woman elected state senator in the country. Last year, New York made headlines with the installation of the “Fearless Girl” in lower Manhattan, and the city plans to add statues of real women in the near future, including statues of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, key figures in the women’s suffrage movement. This summer, New York also created the “She Built NYC” Commission for Public Art on Women’s History to ensure that the city’s monuments reflect the important contributions of women over the years.
As these initiatives grow and take hold, we should all be mindful of the important purpose they serve. Images matter. When we fail to include women in our museums, our street names, our currency, and our parks, we are leaving out stories that are integral to our development and growth as a nation and as a society. We are ignoring the pivotal roles women have played throughout our history and implicitly teaching our children that the only historical figures worth remembering are men. We lose the stories of remarkable women who fought for freedom, made scientific discoveries, created art and made life better for those around them. Let’s keep this momentum going and create public spaces that reflect the richness of all of our people.
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