It’s way too hard to find statues of notable women in the U.S.
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When you walk the streets of cities like New York and Washington, D.C., it's hard to miss the sculptures. Many mark parks and neighborhoods. Historic figures often can be seen standing upright. Or they can be seen sitting on their horses, stoically striking a pose. More often than not, these statues have another thing in common. It's their gender. The majority of public statues in the United States are of men.
Of the estimated 5,193 public statues depicting historic figures on display throughout the U.S., only 394 are of women. This is according to a story written in 2011 by The Washington Post's Cari Shane. Compounding this number, none of the 44 memorials maintained by the National Parks Service, like the Lincoln Memorial or the Jefferson Memorial, specifically focuses on women.
A group is looking to change this ratio. The group is called Where Are The Women? Recently, it successfully campaigned to have statues of women's rights pioneers Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton added to New York's Central Park. The park, notoriously, had no statues of non-fictional women on its grounds. The group is raising funds to build the suffragettes.
The lack of women's representation poses a problem. Leaving their stories out from public art takes away from the significant 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, as told through the stories of their ranking officers. But that's largely what it looks like in Washington, D.C., where military equestrian statues occupy virtually every circle and square in the L'Enfant Plan. They're inoffensive. But these public spaces are wasted on statues that over-tell one story to a people who have long grown oblivious to hearing it."
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 isn't enough to solve ongoing issues of gender discrimination and inequality in the U.S. But by pressing to honor real women from history, cities can restore them to a story that has ignored them for so long. After all, as it stands now, only five public statues of historic women remain in New York City. The statues are of Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt and Harriet Tubman.