After lengthy delay, city approves Central Park statue of women suffragists

After lengthy delay, city approves Central Park statue of women suffragists

Following a re-design and a series of delays, the city voted Monday to approve plans for the first statue of nonfictional women to be displayed in Central Park. The new design by Meredith Bergmann features pioneering activists Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Sojourner Truth, who was added to the sculpture after criticism that the original iteration excluded Black suffragists.

The 14-foot bronze work will be unveiled on Aug. 26, 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification.

“This statue conveys the power of women working together to bring about revolutionary change in our society,” said Pam Elam, president of Monumental Women, the nonprofit that advocated and raised money for the project. “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.”

Model of the statue and Meredith Bergmann in her studio. Photo: Michael Bergmann.
Model of the statue and Meredith Bergmann in her studio. Photo: Michael Bergmann.

The monument is meant to address the lack of representation of nonfiction women in Central Park, where there are currently 23 statues of historical male figures and zero depictions of female counterparts. Originally, Bergmann’s proposed design, chosen from from 91 submissions, featured Anthony and Stanton standing atop a pedestal, with a scroll naming 22 other women central to the suffragette movement cascading down from their hands. Critics of the statue, including Gloria Steinem, argued that the work of Black activists, such as Truth, was diminished.

The new sculpture, which shows all three women working together at a table, was revealed in August — though the vote to approve the design was delayed after the project was put on hold by the Public Design Commission, which voiced concerns that the re-design did not fully address issues previously raised by community members.

“Like the women I’m portraying, my work is meant to raise questions and to provoke thought,” Bergmann said in a statement. “My hope is that all people, but especially young people, will be inspired by this image of women of different races, different religious backgrounds and different economic status working together to change the world”