It’s way too hard to find statues of notable women in the U.S.
When you walk the streets of cities like New York and Washington, D.C., it is hard to miss the sculptures. Many mark parks and neighborhoods. Historic figures often can be seen standing straight. Or sitting on their horses. Often they are stoically striking a pose.
These statues often have another thing in common. It is their gender. Most of the public statues in the United States are of men.
An estimated 5,193 public statues depicting historic figures are on display throughout the U.S. But only 394 are of women. This is according to a story written in 2011. It was in The Washington Post and written by Cari Shane.
None of the 44 memorials maintained by the National Parks Service specifically focus on women. Those include the Lincoln Memorial. They also include the Jefferson Memorial.
A group is looking to change this ratio. The group is called Where Are The Women? It successfully campaigned to have statues of women's rights pioneers Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton put in New York. They will be in Central Park. The park is known for having no statues of non-fictional women on its grounds. The group is raising funds to build the suffragettes.
The lack of women's statues is a problem. Leaving their stories out from public art takes away from the big roles that women have played in history.
As Shane writes: "U.S. history is not just the record of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War. That's largely what it looks like in Washington, D.C. Military equestrian statues occupy virtually every circle and square in the L'Enfant Plan."
Shane adds that the statues are not hurtful. But she also offers a different viewpoint. She says these public spaces are wasted. There are too many statues that over-tell one story. The statues are seen by people who have grown unaware of hearing those stories.
Currently, few of the statues that do show women on city streets are modeled on historic figures. This is according to Kriston Capps. She was writing for CityLab. Instead, women often appear as archetypes. They are symbols of abstract concepts. Or they are nameless figures in a memorial.
One campaign is not enough to solve ongoing issues of gender discrimination and inequality in the U.S. Pressing to honor real women from history can help. Cities can restore them to a story that has ignored them for so long.
Right now, there only five public statues of historic women remain in New York City. The statues are of Joan of Arc and Golda Meir. There are statues for Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt and Harriet Tubman.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
What kinds of stories do equestrian statues "overtell?"
Write your answers in the comments section below