The Mall and Literary Walk, Central Park.
Photo: NYCgo

New York’s Central Park Will Get Its First Statue of Women

The honor goes to women's rights leaders Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton
A model of Bergmann’s design. Photo: New York Historical Society

Central Park has long been one of the most famous and celebrated parks in the world, but it’s also the site of a notable omission—though the grounds are home to 29 statues, including a monument to an Alaskan sled dog, there’s not a single sculpture that depicts a real woman. In 2020 that will finally change, when Connecticut-based sculptor Meredith Bergmann’s statue of American suffragettes Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton will grace the park’s picturesque Literary Walk.

The new statue is part of an initiative called She Built NYC, announced by the city’s first lady, Chirlane McCray, in June. “There are big gaps in our city’s public art, with few statues of women, trans and gender-nonconforming people,” she explained at the time. “The message that lack of representation sends is that these people have no value and did not make contributions to our city. This first step we are taking will help us more accurately show the diversity in the people who helped make New York City so great.”

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Bergmann’s design was selected out of the 90 entries submitted to the group. “When I heard my design had been chosen, I was—unusually—at a loss for words,” Bergmann tells Galerie. “This project is the culmination of decades of growth, for me, as a sculptor of public monuments and work that celebrates human rights and social justice. I’m so honored and delighted to be the sculptor of the monument that’s breaking the ‘bronze ceiling’ in Central Park.”

Bergmann’s statue of suffragette Lucy Stone at the Boston Women’s Memorial. Photo: Meredith Bergmann

Bergmann also sculpted the Boston Women’s Memorial, which features a statue of another significant suffragette, Lucy Stone. In preparing her proposal for that memorial 20 years ago, Bergmann studied the women’s rights movement and its key players, including Stanton and Anthony. “When, many years later, I heard of plans for this sculpture for Central Park, I waited eagerly for the competition to be announced because I know and love the Park, and I’m convinced that there should be many more artistic representations of the accomplishments of women there and everywhere.”

If you don’t want to wait until 2020 to get a glimpse of the statue, a miniature model of Bergmann’s design is on view at the New-York Historical Society through the end of August.

“I hope this work will inspire visitors to learn about and emulate these women! For young women especially, I hope they discover that history is useful for understanding our present society. The issues these women dealt with are still with us.”

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