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 erect. Or they can be seen sitting astride 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 on street corners and parks throughout the U.S., only 394 are of women. That is according to a story that The Washington Post's Cari Shane wrote in 2011. 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. It 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 installed in 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 is problematic. Leaving their narratives 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, writing for CityLab. Instead, women often appear as archetypes. They are symbols of abstract concepts or nameless figures in a memorial.
While one campaign isn't enough to solve persistent issues of gender discrimination and inequality in the U.S., by pressing to honor real women from history, cities around the country 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.