Women are ready to take their rightful place in Central Park.
For the first time in history, a bronze statue depicting and celebrating the achievements of women will join the myriad monuments honoring men, animals and fictional characters in the storied park.
On Monday, city officials unveiled the site on the Literary Walk in the south end of the park where it plans to place the “Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Woman Suffrage Movement Monument” in 2020.
The tree-lined mall includes statues of writers such as William Shakespeare and Robert Burns.
The timing was no accident. Monday was the 100th anniversary of a woman’s right to vote in New York.
“We are going to break the bronze ceiling in Central Park to create the first statue of real women in its 164-year history,” said Pam Elam, president of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund, who has worked for years to get the groundbreaking women recognized in the park. “This is an instant history lesson. … It’s learning from the past to do a better job of fighting for equality and justice in the future.”
Most New Yorkers and visitors have no idea the only monuments depicting females in the park are Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose, Juliet (from Romeo and Juliet) and a variety of nymphs and other mystical creatures.
“I was shocked, I couldn’t believe it,” said New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver, who first heard from Elam and Coline Jenkins, the great-great granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and co-founder of the statue fund.
A group of Girl Scouts from the Dalton School joined forces with Elam and Jenkins, holding rallies in the park to raise awareness.
Five of those sixth-graders — Sophia Singh, Samantha Gottlieb, Stori Small, Phoebe Bergin and Pippa Lee — attended the Monday ceremony.
“Girls should have someone to look up to in the park,” Small said. “Do you really want to grow up to be Alice in Wonderland or do you want to grow up to be a real woman who can inspire, who can do anything if they put their mind to it?”
New York Life, which has close historic ties to Susan B. Anthony, pledged a $500,000 challenge grant last year to the statue’s fund. The statue will need about $1.5 million for its design, construction and maintenance.
According to Heather Nestle, president of the New York Life Foundation, Susan B. Anthony used funds from her New York Life insurance policy to get the first women into the University of Rochester in 1900. In addition, her father and other relatives were agents with the firm.
“It’s been this collective great experience to really correct an injustice,” Silver said.
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, a long-time supporter of the statue, said it was important to place it in Central Park as opposed to another site in the city.
“About 42 million people use Central Park,” said Brewer, who secured $100,000 in city funds for the statue. “This is a place of education. And this is history not always being taught.”
Stanton and Anthony were passionate about the abolition of slavery and the right of women to vote. They both had strong ties to New York, and in 1866 Stanton became the first woman to run for Congress. The fierce pair founded the National Woman Suffrage Association in 1869.
The Parks Department also released the request for qualifications and request for proposals by artists for designs, noting it “will be considered a success if it can get the public to identify with these two women and their ideals.”