Sojourner Truth added to proposed women’s suffrage monument in Central Park

The original design of the statue was criticized for not recognizing the roles women of color played in the women’s suffrage movement.

A proposed women’s suffrage monument, slated to become the first statue of real women in Central Park, has been redesigned to include a third trailblazer.

The “Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Woman Suffrage Movement Monument” will now include abolitionist and women’s rights activist Sojourner Truth, in addition to Stanton and Anthony, according to the sculptor and nonprofit funding the monument.

The decision to add Truth came after the city’s Public Design Commission approved the statue with the condition that “the applicant will work to identify meaningful ways to acknowledge and commemorate women of color who played an active role in the Woman Suffrage Movement.”

The original design of the monument included a scroll with the names and quotes of 22 women other than Stanton and Anthony who played important roles in the women’s suffrage movement, including Truth. But that design received criticism for not giving enough recognition to the other women, and the commission worried “it could be seen as insulting and marginalizing,” Keri Butler, the deputy executive director of the Public Design Commission, said in an email.

Stanton and Anthony’s “The History of Women’s Suffrage,” published in 1881, also has been criticized for neglecting the contributions of women of color. 

In March, a design without the scroll was presented to the Public Design Commission, but the commission maintained that the roles of women of color were “overlooked” by the statue, according to a meeting document

“Our goal has always been to honor the diverse women in history who fought for equality and justice and who dedicated their lives to the fight for Women’s Rights,” said Pam Elam, president of Monumental Women. “When the Public Design Commission unanimously approved our previous design with Anthony and Stanton, but required that a scroll with names and quotes of 22 diverse women’s suffrage leaders be removed, we knew we needed to go back to the drawing board and create a new design.”

Truth was born into slavery in Ulster County, New York, in 1797. She escaped in 1827 and became an abolitionist and women’s rights activist.

Truth, Anthony and Stanton often attended the same meetings and conventions, and historical records show they wrote to each other and supported each others’ work, Monumental Women said in a news release. 

The design of the monument will feature Truth speaking, Anthony “bringing documentation of injustice” and Stanton poised to write, said Meredith Bergmann, the sculptor selected to make the statue. A rendering was not immediately available.

“The three figures each represent an essential aspect of activism,” Bergmann said. “Girls and boys who encounter this monument will see a positive image of diverse women working together to change the world.”

The new design must be reviewed by the Public Design Commission. The statue is scheduled to be unveiled on Central Park’s Mall on Aug. 26, 2020, the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, Monumental Women said.

Nicole Brown