Did you know that the lead-up to the 2020 Centennial of passage of the Nineteenth Amendment prompted an uptick in the number of landmarks to women? Well, it's true! Landmarks to white men, of course, still dominate our public landscape, but since 2019 there has been a notable increase in landmarks to women, including black women. So, on the first day of February, Black History Month, here are three new statues:
An intergenerational and interracial monument, "Every Word We Utter" by Jane DeDecker was unveiled in Riverfront Park, Little Rock, Arkansas, October 10, 2019. At the base are
a young Harriot Stanton with her mother Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth. Alice Paul and Ida B. Wells are positioned at the top, each holding a flag. The title is from a quote by Elizabeth Cady Stanton: "Every word we utter, every act we perform . . . are wafted into enumerable other circles."
Eight miles from where Sojourner Truth, then known as Isabella Baumfree, was a slave for thirty years in Ulster County, New York, a seven-foot, one thousand pound statue of Sojourner Truth is located at Over the Hudson, Highland side, New York. Linda and I drove a
four-hour round trip to visit it shortly after it was unveiled on August 25, 2020. The sculptor Vinnie Bagwell added interesting elements in the form of bas reliefs on the skirt: "Mother and Son and Hand" depicts the legal battle Truth won to recover her son Peter who was illegally sold South at age five.
In early 2022, a statue representing the preeminent educator, activist, and advisor to U. S. presidents Mary McLeod Bethune will stand in the U.S. Capitol Statuary Hall, replacing that of a Confederate general. A gift from from Florida (each state is allocated two statues), the 11-foot, 3-ton statue was sculpted from white marble by Nilda Comas, the first Hispanic artist to create a statue for the the National Statuary Hall Collection. Comas represented McLeod garbed in academic regalia and holding a black rose. Instead of the typical lofty head position, Comas carved McLeod with a smile and looking down at visitors. I am intrigued by Comas' vision and eager to visit this new statue to a historic woman.
Happily these are not the only landmarks to Sojourner Truth and Mary McLeod Bethune. Here is a sampling of some that I have visited and photographed: the Sojourner Truth Memorial, by Thomas Jay Warren dedicated in Florence, Massachusetts, on October 4, 2002; the bronze bust of Sojourner Truth by Artis Lane, dedicated on April 28, 2009, in Emancipation Hall in the U. S. Capitol Visitor Center, the first memorial honoring a Black woman in the U.S. Capitol; and the unique bronze statue by Trina Greene of Truth as a young girl that was dedication on September 21, 2013 in Esopus, New York, where she was enslaved.
Linda took the photo on a very cold winter day. On the left is part of an excellent illustrated marker. The memorial in Florence also has stimulating informational markers.
Many years ago, I drove to Mayesville, South Carolina, the birthplace of Mary McLeod Bethune, to visit a park and markers honoring her. In 2020, just before the pandemic set in, I visited her grave located on the grounds of Bethune-Cookman University that she founded.
Whenever I am in Washington, D.C., I pay my respects to the Mary McLeod Bethune Memorial by Robert Berks in Lincoln Park. Dorothy Height, the president of the National Council of Negro Women, that was founded by Bethune, spearheaded the creation of the memorial that was dedicated on July 10, 1974. Three bronze figures stand on a tiered
pedestal that forms a platform for the 17' statue representing Bethune who is handing a copy of her Last Will and Testament to two children. Her Will includes 8 admonitions, including "I Leave You a Thirst for Education." The walking stick in her right hand once belonged to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, by whom she was appointed a national adviser. It was a remembrance gift after his death from her good friend Eleanor Roosevelt.
For more historic women landmarks, check out my Instagram account @pennycolmancollection)