New York City’s Central Park boasts a host of statues across its 843 acres, including representations of obscure figures such as King Wladyslaw Jagiello, the 14th-century grand duke of Lithuania, but has long been absent of any statues of women — with the exception of one depicting fictional character Alice in Wonderland.
That state of affairs is slated to change in 2020 with a statue of suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton set to erected on the Mall, the park’s widest pedestrian path. But the monument, which is set to be unveiled on the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, is facing criticism from prominent feminists who say its design actively contributes to the historical erasure of black suffragists.
The proposed statue would show Anthony and Stanton holding a scroll that names and quotes 22 other women involved in the push for women’s suffrage — including seven African-American women, among them Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, and Mary Church Terrell, giants of American activism in their own right who feminists say more than merit being commemorated with statues themselves. The use of the scroll also appears to imply that Anthony and Stanton are writing the history of suffrage — a problematic image given that Anthony and Stanton did in fact co-edit a history of women’s suffrage that infamously diminished and erased the contributions of black women to the movement. Stanton herself once even argued against suffrage for black men, claiming it was “better to be the slave of an educated white man than of a degraded black one.”
“I do think we cannot have a statue of two white women representing the vote for all women,” legendary feminist Gloria Steinem told The New York Times. “It is not only that it is not enough,” but that it looks like Anthony and Stanton “are standing on the names of these other women.”
Asked about the controversy, Pam Elam, the president of the Statue Fund responsible for the project said that they were unwilling to change the design of the monument.
“The bottom line is we are committed to inclusion,” she said, “but you can’t ask one statue to meet all the desires of the people who have waited so long for recognition.”
Read the full story at The New York Times.