The Crestone Eagle • August, 2020

Put us on a pedestal, sculpt us in bronze & marble, put us on street signs & coins!

by M. Diane Bairstow

On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th amendment. The suffragettes had finally won!

After the convention of Seneca Falls in 1848, the women of the United States spent 72 years protesting, petitioning, marching and demonstrating to get Congress to pass the 19th Amendment. They continued state by state for another 14 months to secure its ratification by 3/4ths of the states. On August 26, 1920 it was finally signed into law. Neither Elizabeth Cady Stanton nor Susan B. Anthony lived to see the completion of their lives’ work.

Suffragists protested Lady Liberty on opening day. They were infuriated by a woman representing Liberty in N.Y. Harbor when they were still fighting for the right to vote. It would be 34 years after the unveiling of the statue before the 19th Amendment was passed.

In the 100 years since, women have come a long way, but there is still a long way to go, and this will not necessarily be secured by legislation. Women need to be celebrated for their accomplishments. Young boys see male role models everywhere, in our holidays, monuments, street names and on our currency, but where are the women?

There is not one holiday named after a woman. Scattered throughout the country, there are a few towns named after women but most of them are named for the wives or daughters of the towns’ founders. Occasionally you will find a street named after a woman, but it is so rare, it draws national attention. In 2019 Chicago renamed Congress Blvd. Ida B. Wells Drive. It was so unusual an event that The New York Times praised the Chicago City Council for their action.

Before women got the right to vote, 1865 and 1866 Pocahontas and Martha Washington graced the $20 and $1 bills respectively, but it wasn’t until 1979 when the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin came out that a woman appeared again on any U.S. currency. Under the Obama administration there were plans to put 4 women on various dollar bills by 2020. That was delayed another 10 years by the Trump administration. Another bill introduced in March 2019 to put various historical women figures on quarters in honor of the passage of the 19th Amendment still languishes in committee.

Monuments to women are few and far between. According to a Washington Post article in 2011 by Cari Shane, in the U.S. there were approximately 5,193 statues of historical figures, only 394 were of women—in sharp contrast to the 718 confederate monuments throughout the country.

Statuary Hall at the Capitol in Washington, D.C. gets three to five million visitors a year. Each state is represented by two statues. Only 9 out of the 100 are of women. In 1999 the Kansas Legislature voted to change their statues to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Amelia Earhart. Dwight arrived in 2003, although until Amelia’s statue is finished, she is still missing from the Hall.

In 1921 a monument depicting Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott was donated to the U.S. Congress. It was unveiled beneath the soaring dome of Capitol Rotunda which connects both houses of Congress. The very next day it was relegated to the Crypt and was not seen again until 1997 when it was returned to the Rotunda.

In New York City there are hundreds of statues in their park system, only four are dedicated to women: Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman and Gertrude Stein. In Central Park there are 22 statues of men, and one sled dog Balto (male also). There are statues of Mother Goose and Alice in Wonderland, but not one of a real woman.

That is about to change, thanks to the Monumental Women Campaign spearheaded by Pam Elam and Coline Jenkins, the great-great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton. A statue of Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth is scheduled to be unveiled in Central Park on August 26 in honor of the passage of the 19th Amendment.

It wasn’t easy to get the monument in the park. The women were turned down again and again, and it was suggested to them that a “nice garden” would be preferable to a monument. But the women persisted.

Women persist, and glass ceilings, brass ceilings, bronze and marble ceilings are cracked. How long will it be before they are completely shattered?