Statue of Elizabeth Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth at center of public hearing

The yet-to-be-released design of a women’s suffrage monument slated to go up in Central Park next year will be discussed at a public hearing on Monday.

The monument, originally of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, was updated last month to include abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth, following criticism that the original design did not give enough recognition to other women, particularly women of color.

The new statue is under review by the city’s Public Design Commission, which will hear testimony about it at its meeting on Monday. The meeting is set to begin at 10:40 a.m. in the City Council Chamber at City Hall, and the monument is expected to be discussed at about 11:05 a.m., but times are approximated.

Though a rendering of the updated sculpture has not been released, the artist, Meredith Bergmann said it will show the three women working together in Stanton’s home.

“Sojourner Truth is speaking, Susan B. Anthony is organizing, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is writing,” Bergmann said in a statement. “Sojourner Truth sits with Elizabeth Cady Stanton at a small table, perhaps on the occasion of a conference for the abolition of slavery or for women’s rights or for both, as these movements were, for much of their history, joined in activism. Susan B. Anthony is standing behind the table with her traveling bag, bringing documentation of injustices to help focus the discussion.”

Both Truth and Anthony were guests in Stanton’s home, according to historical records, but there isn’t evidence that they were there at the same time.

“This monument, in keeping with the other monuments on Literary Walk (in Central Park), is not a copy of a photograph or a representation of an actual historical moment, but an imaginative, allegorical representation of famous, important people involved in the unending struggle for greater justice in America,” Bergmann said. “I am committed to representing both the sisterhood among these activists and their differences.”

A group of nearly two dozen scholars, including the director of the Harlem Historical Society and professors at Barnard College, New York University and Yale University, expressed concern about the way Truth will be portrayed in a letter on Aug. 21 to the group funding the statue.

“If Sojourner Truth is added in a manner that simply shows her working together with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Stanton’s home, it could obscure the substantial differences between white and black suffrage activists, and would be misleading,” the scholars wrote. “Stanton and Anthony’s overall rhetoric comparing black men’s suffrage to female suffrage treated black intelligence and capability in a manner that Truth opposed.”

Some of the people who signed the letter plan to testify at the hearing Monday, said Todd Fine, who was among the signees and is the president of a preservation organization called the Washington Street Advocacy Group.

Testimony at the hearing should be about “issues of design and aesthetic merit,” the design commission said. Members of the public can submit their testimony in writing ahead of the hearing by emailing [email protected].

The order of the testimony will be based on the sign-in sheet at the meeting and each person will have three minutes to speak, the commission said.

The statue was first announced in November 2017 and will be the first statue of real women in Central Park. It is expected to be unveiled on Aug. 26, 2020, the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment.