All of the statues in this blog are real, which in this case means you can visit them, touch them, or snap a photo with them. As the saying goes, they are carved in stone, like the men on Mount Rushmore. But not all the statues are flesh and blood women. Some are goddesses; others are visual representation of ideologies like Fearless Girl. A handful are conglomerates of women of substance like the Gullah- Geechee Girl. But it should not matter, their stories are real. They all have a pulse and a heartbeat. They are all memorialized as an homage to their individualized strengths, talents, legends, and fortitude. The problem, there just isn’t enough women statues in the world. While all of us reading this blog know that women rock- it’s time the world knew it too!
Recently the CBS Sunday Morning show with Jane Pauley ran a segment, “On a Pedestal,” and it got my attention. I hope it gets yours. Noteworthy was the fact that nationwide there are 5,000 outdoor statues and only 8% of them are women; that’s 400 out of 5,000 statues across the USA (see video clip). Monumental Women, a campaign to bring more women statues to New York City’s Central Park, hopes to change the odds. According to the site, there are 23 statues of historical figures in Central Park and none of them are women. Monumental Women hopes to break the bronze ceiling by commissioning an artist to sculpture two women statues: one of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and one of Susan B. Anthony. These women will finally take a seat of honor on the pedestal. Another organization, Equal Visibility Everywhere (EVE) is dedicated to highlight underrepresented women in all of our nation’s symbols, coins, currency, stamps, and monuments, holidays, street names, and of course, statues. According to EVE in NYC, 5 out of 159 historical outdoor figures are women.
Women of all ages need encouragement and inspiration. Young girls need role models that can liberally look up to. We tell our daughters that they can be anything they want, but that is not the mage the bronze world displays. Now is the perfect time to speak up. You can’t read a paper or view a news post without seeing a segment about the removal of confederate historical figures. Most of these are white men with racist ties. Let’s replace these out-dated male statues with those of women. It doesn’t matter if the woman is famous, young, or old. Her only requirement should be is that she has substance. We will tell her story. When I say we, I mean women. No offense to men but our stories should be told from the point of view of the matriarchy not the patriarchy. I am not one to lead a revolution but now is the perfect time to start dotting the landscape with chiseled women.
The very first statue that ever caught my eye was fittingly, Joan of Arc, my revolutionist namesake. I was 17 and visiting France with an International Studies program. My mother had planted in my head the idea that I was named after Joan of Arc. She said Joan of Arc was her American name, while in actuality she was called Jeanne D’Arc in France. Hence the French spelling of my name. As a child she told me that Joan/Jeanne led a revolution at age 14. I was spellbound although I wondered about the “voices she heard” and I antagonized over the whole “burned at the stake” imagery. But even though I was in awe of the story my mother told me about her, I let Joan slumber. She re-surfaced in Orleans, France, a small but culturally progressive French city that my Foreign Language study group visited over a four week period. When I laid eyes on the massive Joan of Arc sculpture/water fountain located in the middle of the city, I was gob smacked. Joan of Arc was a child! How could she have become a legendary soldier responsible for the 14th century French Freedom march? Even though I read all I could get my hands on about Joan’s life while I was in France, her story left me empty. None of it rang true. I hate to say this but when I left Europe I never followed up on my nagging suspicion that we didn’t know the whole story. Even then I had an inkling that men were responsible for the information we had about Joan’s back story but life got in the way as it often does-college, marriage, children, career, and Joan stood marbleized in a square in Orleans, France. Lips sealed.
The second statue that piqued my interest was Waving Girl, chiseled in the likeness of Florence Martus, a local woman who stood on the banks of the Savannah Harbor for 44 years and waved passing ships. Further investigation revealed that Florence helped her brother tend the Cockspur Island Lighthouse, a small beacon of light at the end of Fort Pulaski, a stronghold of the Civil war. It was reported that one night during a storm Florence and her brother rescued 39 men from a burning barge. I couldn’t stop thinking about Florence. This time instead of tossing her story aside when I returned home like I did with her predecessor, I inhabited her tale and wore it around the house like an old bathrobe. I embellished her short Wikipedia story and soon she was as alive to me as any other woman that I knew.
Afterwards, I found myself intrigued by statues wherever I went .There was Fearless Girl in NY, a statuesque couple in San Diego fashioned from the iconic kiss signaling the end of WW11, a Gullah-Geechee girl in South Carolina, and Canadian artist Emily Carr in Victoria, British Columbia. And of Course my namesake. All of these statues had a story that needed to be unpacked. I found myself in a strange place, acting as a medium to granite.
I hope you are still hanging in there. Please start exploring the statues and their tales. If you come across a female statue that has a story of substance or one that needs her story unpacked, please a comment. Please fill out the Contact Form. You can help as we build a nation of chiseled goddesses