Breaking the 'Bronze Ceiling': New York's Central Park Unveils First Statue Honoring Women

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution, granting women in America with the right to vote. While there are many figures that history has remembered as being the spearheads of the movement there are some who many history books have failed to shine a light on.

Around the United States, few monuments have been erected to honor these women, though one is set to be unveiled in late August in New York City's Central Park—becoming the first statue in the park depicting nonfiction female figures. The statue was created by sculptor Meredith Bergmann and immortalizes Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in 14-foot bronze forms.

While Central Park has 23 statues commemorating historical figures to date, none of them are of women.

Central Park Monument
A clay model of the monument by Meredith Bergmann—the final version was composed of bronze. Michael Bergmann

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The New York Times reports that the journey of the The Women's Rights Pioneers Monument began in 2014 with the formation of Monumental Women, a group of volunteers who helped to raise money for such a statue to be completed. The initial design included just Anthony and Stanton though last August, the organization decided to add Truth after criticism that the statue was only recognizing white women. The completed statue will be unveiled on August 26 at 8 a.m.

"Monumental Women is proud that our all-volunteer, nonprofit group broke the bronze ceiling in New York City's Central Park to create the first statue of real women in the 167-year history of the park," Pam Elam, President of Monumental Women tells Newsweek.

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"What we seek is a full and fair historical record that reflects and respects the contributions of all the diverse women who made this nation and this world great. We won't stop until we win that. This is only the beginning."

Central Park sculpture 2
Meredith Bergmann working on the final sculpture which will be unveiled in Central Park in late August. Michael Bergmann

August 18 marks exactly 100 years since the 19th Amendment was ratified, granting women in America with the right to vote after decades of fighting. It all started over 150 years ago, in Seneca Falls, New York, when a group of women—and some men—gathered to discuss the issue of women's rights. The National American Woman Suffrage Association was formed in 1890, with Stanton as its first president, who became a notable figurehead for the movement.

In November 1920, the first election after the amendment was passed, more than 8 million American women voted for the first time.

Around the country, various memorials have been erected in memorial of the trailblazers who fought for women's rights 100 years ago and beyond. Though there is much work to be done to equalize how history remembers men and women. According to 2011 data compiled by Statista, only 7.6 percent of public statues in the United States are of women— that's 92.4 percent commemorating men.

We've highlighted some of the monuments around the U.S. that do recognize women—especially those who fought for women's right to vote as we celebrate the 100th anniversary.

Portrait Monument
The Portrait Monument stands in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda in Washington, D.C., where it is displayed after being kept in the crypt below the rotunda for decades. MICHAEL MATHES/AFP/Getty

Portrait Monument to Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Washington, D.C.

Much like the amendment itself, this monument honoring Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton took many years to come to fruition. While it was completed just six months after the amendment was officially ratified, it spent decades in the crypt below the Capitol Rotunda, where it is currently displayed. The day after it was revealed, it was moved downstairs and for 40 years, the large marble statue sat in what was essentially a service closet, Smithsonian magazine reports. In 1963, the crypt was open to visitors, though supporters continued to fight to have the statue brought out of the basement back upstairs to the Rotunda, though congress continued to deny the requests. Finally, in 1997, almost 80 years after its completion, the statue was moved back into the Rotunda where it stands today.

 Esther Hobart Morris
Tourists by the Capitol in Cheyenne, Wyoming, where the statue is of Esther Hobart Morris was on display before being moved to the basement of the building during renovations. Robert Nickelsberg/Getty

Statue of Esther Hobart Morris, Cheyenne, Wyoming

This statue of Esther Hobart Morris, the first woman to ever hold judicial office in 1870, sat outside of the Capitol in Cheyenne, Wyoming, for years. In 2019, the statue was moved into the building, and like the Portrait Monument, into the basement during renovations of the building. Another version of the statue stands in the Hall of Columns in the United States Capitol—both were created by Avard Fairbanks. Wyoming was ahead of the curve in women's equality and granted women the right to vote in 1869, well before the country made it the law of the land. Morris was an advocate for women's suffrage and was elected a delegate to the national suffrage convention in Cleveland.

Minnesota suffragettes
The trellis at the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial which displays the names of 25 suffragettes. Linda A. Cameron/ MNopedia

Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial,
Saint Paul, Minnesota

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment, the League of Women Voters of Minnesota formed a committee to figure out how to celebrate the occasion. It came up with a series of events that educated the public on the suffrage movement. As part of the celebration, the committee also wanted to propose a memorial that would last long after the anniversary passed. The memorial sits on the grounds of the Minnesota State Capitol and was completed in 2000 after two years of construction, though then redesigned in 2004, according to the National Park Service. Along a trellis in the garden are the names of 25 women involved in the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association as well as Minnesota's ratification of the 19th Amendment. Minnesota was the 15th state to ratify the 19th Amendment in 1919.

Tennessee Woman Suffrage Memorial,
Nashville, Tennessee

Tennessee was the final state needed to make women's right to vote the law of the land to officially pass the 19th Amendment. This monument, which was moved to its permanent location just a few months ago honors Carrie Chapman Catt, Anne Dallas Dudley, Juno Frankie Pierce, Sue Shelton White and Abby Crawford Milton. The monument was created by artist Alan LeQuire, after the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Monument Board raised the funds to commission the piece in 2012. All five women played an important role in pushing for equal rights both on a state and national level.

Breaking the 'Bronze Ceiling': New York's Central Park Unveils First Statue Honoring Women | Culture