Voices From the Garden

            Seven statues of women who’ve shaped the Commonwealth of Virginia have been unveiled in October 2109 in Capital Square, Richmond, VA. There are also names of 230 other women of influence etched along the walls of the exhibit. Five more statues are in the works.

            This has been an on-going project that focused on collectively recognizing the voices of women who’ve not been given their due in mainstream America. These women, from the past 400 years, have been for the most part, overlooked. While many have been given a line or two in a few history books, it’s not enough. We need to amplify their voice. From all walks of life these are extraordinary women who’ve risen above stereotypes, prejudices, injustice, poverty, race and sexual discrimination, adversity and apathy to break barriers and smash glass ceilings. Their accomplishments are numerous, vast and impressive.

        The women exhibited haven’t been placed on a pedestal, riding a horse, or carrying a weapon; this way visitors can look them in the eye. Take a good look. These are the women whose shoulders we’ve been standing on for four hundred years. Listen to their narratives. It’s time to bring real women to the table. And what an amazing table it is.

            The Seven:

  1. Ann Burras Laydon (1595-?). Jamestown colonist. Records indicate she left England as an unmarried woman and arrived in Jamestown in 1608. She soon married and bore four daughters. Her oldest daughter was the first recoded child to be born of English parents. Ann was a homesteader and early member of what is now considered to be the first American settlement. She survived an Indian attack, when survival rates were low.
  2. Cockacoeske (1656-1686): Pamunkey Chieftain. Cocoacoeske was a Native American woman who was called “Queen” by the settlers when her husband died. She’s best known for signing the Articles of Peace, also referred to as the Treaty of Middle Plantation in 1677. She maintained a diplomatic relationship with other tribes, a feat which was difficult for most other tribal leaders to accomplish.
  3. Mary Draper Ingles (1732-1815): Frontierswoman. Mary was another early settler, who after surviving a capture by the Shawnee, escaped, and then found safe passage 600 miles home She went on to create Ingles Ferry with her husband. Mary was the subject of books, plays and movies (see the “Long Way Home” and “The Captives: Follow the River”).
  4. Elizabeth Keckley (1818-1907): Seamstress. Elizabeth was born a free black woman to parents who had once been enslaved. She was a seamstress as well as an author. In 1868 she wrote, “Behind the Scenes or 30 Years a Slave” also known as “From Slavery to the White House.” You see, Elizabeth became Mary Todd Lincoln’s dressmaker and confidant. Her memoir was considered scandalous at that time.  
  5. Laura Copenhaver (1868-1949). Textile entrepreneur. The daughter of a minister and the wife of a school administrator, Laura found her niche in writing, civic work and cooperative marketing. She started a business in her house where woman made hand-made blankets. Soon the demand for her product was so high she had to move into a factory. Rosemont, a textile industry, was then born, which is still in operation today (mainly bed linens).
  6. Virginia Randolph (1874-1958): Educator. Virginia was an African American woman who was born to previously enslaved parents in Richmond, VA. She was considered to be a pioneer in the area of industrial arts. Virginia believed that students learned better by doing. She taught classes like woodworking, sewing, gardening, and home design. She was the recipient of an award that allowed black rural schools to include the manual arts in their curriculum.
  7. Adele Clark (1882-1983): Suffragette. Adele was a founding member of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia as well as an artist and art advocate. She fought to have the Nineteenth Amendment ratified, which didn’t happen in Virginia until 1957. Nonetheless, she worked tirelessly for women’s rights until the day she died. As an artist, her work has graced showrooms and private residences. Her lovely painting, “Sledding” reminds me of the lithographs found in the Currie & Ives printmakers book, one of childhood favorites.

 

Collectively, these women rock. I applaud the state of Virginia for stepping up to the plate and creating such a visual display of the accomplishments of women. Day by day, year in and year out, across decades, and centuries, these women worked to make their community a better place to live, often without notice or reward.  In doing so, they made the state fuller and richer. The country benefited too. They are true monuments of the matriarchy. But these woman are no different than most of us reading this site. Just like the statues, we come from all walks of life and bring a different set of skill sets. But if we put our collective heads together, we can build a better world. One statue at a time.

 

PRINCESS ALICE of BATTENBERG (1885-1969)

              (otherwise known as the mother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh)

 

            If you’re a fan of “The Crown” now steaming on Netflix, perhaps you, along with countless others, have fallen in love with Princess Alice during a heartwarming viewing of Episode 4. If not, I’ll enlighten you as to why Princess Alice, also the mother-in-law of Queen Elizabeth 11 and great-granddaughter of Queen Victoria, is worthy of being included in our monuments of the matriarchy. Just to be clear, I’m not recognizing her for her royal ancestry but because she is a woman of substance, in her own right.

            Misunderstood for most of her life, Alice was born congenitally deaf. Since nobody figured it out for years, she had to teach herself to lip read. As a speech-language pathologist, I can’t stress how important hearing is in the development of language and the impact it has on functional communication. Members of the Royal Family thought she was intellectually-impaired because when measured against people with intact hearing, she fell short. She is often considered to be a blot on the Royal Family.

            Even so, they still married her off to Prince Andrew, son of the King of Greece. She lived in Greece for years while she gave birth to four daughters and finally, a son. But in 1922, the Greco-Turkish caused her to flee to safely. A few years later, she was diagnosed as having a nervous breakdown and was institutionalized. She became a patient of Sigmund Freud who claimed she suffered from paranoid schizophrenia as well as other patriarchal ailments I won’t discuss here.

            She was finally released from institutionalized living in the 1930’s and went back to Greece where she lived a life of charity. Here’s when her life takes a different turn. During WW11 she harbored Greek Jews and kept them safe from capture. It’s reported that she pretended not to “hear” the authorities when they questioned her. They soon grew tired of interrogating her and left, never to return again. In the 1940’s she founded St. Mary Magdalene; a Greek Orthodox sisterhood for nuns who served the needy. Pictures of Princess Alice at the wedding of Philip and Elizabeth show her in a nun’s habit, which only fueled the rumor of her insanity. In 1966, she returned to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle, her birthplace, to live out her final years. She became close to Princess Anne. Fans of the Royal Family like to think Prince Philip finally embraced his benevolent mother.

            I looked high and wide for a statue of this ahead-of-her-time woman but couldn’t find one. I did, however, find her tomb in Jerusalem. She wanted to be buried next to a beloved aunt. I also found a tree planted in her honor at the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial. In 1993, she was deemed Princess Alice Righteous Among Nations on behalf of her work during the holocaust. In 2010, the British government called her a “Hero of the Holocaust.”

            Still no statue. I wonder what it will take to commission a statue for a woman considered to be the “rarest creature among the whole Royal Family who suffered more and did better than the whole royal family put together.”

            Rally up. Start a campaign. Let’s put Alice of Battenberg on a pedestal. The world needs her to be memorialized in stone for all eternity. She demonstrated a “turn the other cheek” lifestyle that is rare and beautiful. If that isn’t worthy of bronze, I don’t know what is.

                                                                                               

                                      ” I ask no favor for myself. All I ask our brethren is that they take their feet off our necks.”

 

            A seven-foot statue of Ruth Bade Ginsburg – a woman of such significance that she’s known by her initials, along with word notorious—has been unveiled in City Point, NY on March, 2021. Located inside the Flatbush entrance in Brooklyn, the statue was created by husband-and-wife sculptors Gille and Marc Schattner. Notorious RBG can be found along with ten other statues of inspirational women such as Oprah Winfrey, Jane Goodall and Gabby Douglass, in the “Statues of Equality” exhibit. The exhibit raises the percentage of women statues in New York from three to ten percent. Yes, ladies we’re finally making some headway in our effort to reach our mission of dotting the patriarchal landscape with more monuments of the matriarchy.

            The statue had been unveiled during Women’s History month as a memorial to her posthumous 88th birthday. I’ve already noted RBG once in this blog when I commented on a jabot or ornamental collar that had placed on the statue of Fearless Girl upon Ruth’s death. Ruth often wore collars to add meaning to her dress (some were majority collars, other dissenting collars).

           And Fearless, she was, along with being the “great dissenter” or “great equalizer.” RBG argued many judicial battles in the pursuit of racial and gender equality. While Ruth rarely used the term women’s right, she did say she fought for the “constitutional principles of the equal citizenship stature of men and women.” One of my favorites quotes from her was, “Women will have achieved true equality when men and women share with them the responsibility of bringing up the next generation.” I’ve personally observed this to be much more the norm than it was during my childrearing years. My son is an equal co-parent with his wife. Something his father wasn’t. I’d like to take credit but I think it’s generational and/or societal  progress. I credit women like RBG, and men like her husband.

          I  haven’t visited Ruth’s statue yet but now that COVID incidences are declining, I see the possibility of travel in my life once again. I can’t wait to touch a piece of her greatness. RBG’s statue will shine bright, a beautiful reminder of the wondrous contributions she made to the field of gender equality.

       Who will fight the good fight now that she’s gone? I hope it will be all of you. Join me. Everyone.     

 

 

                                           I don’t think of all the misery but of the beauty that still remains.” A. Frank

 

            Anne Frank’s diary is a world treasure. Despite being only thirteen-years old when she took pen to paper, her words resonate with people of all ages, in all parts of the universe. She deserves to be memorialized in stone and placed on a pedestal. While she’s honored in many historic landmarks, this blog will focus on two of the more popular.

            Erected in Founder’s Park Plaza at the National WW11 Museum in New Orleans sits a life-sized statue of Anne. Sculpted by Studio EIS, Anne is depicted holding her diary to her chest with both hands. A direct quote from her diary is nearby, “Someday this terrible way will be over. Surely the time will come when we are people again, and not just Jews.”

            Imagine being in Anne’s shoes. She was a girl, on the brink of adolescence, when  suddenly she’s forced to hide in two small rooms, hidden behind a bookcase, and shut off from the life she once knew. No television, no communication with the outside world, no music. Just a few books and a measly stack of paper and pencils, and the cramped company of seven other people, some of whom she didn’t get along with, even in the best of times. But Anne had hutzpah and made the most of it -by looking out onto a horse-chestnut tree – and by starting a diary, which she called a “strange experience.” She wrote even though she was sure “no one will ever be interested in the musings of a thirteen-year-old-girl.” But that didn’t stop her moxie from pouring out onto the page. “Oh, well. It doesn’t matter. I feel like writing.” I’m glad she felt propelled to write in a diary. Otherwise we never would’ve known about this brave girl. Bravery gets noticed. In Anne’s case, her strength of character was memorialized in bronze, which allowed her to take her place among the other impressive monuments of the matriarchy.  

            Still, being the face of humanity has its downsides. A monument of Anne known as the Idaho Anne Frank Human Rights Memorial, that resides at the Wassmuth Rights Center, was defaced in Dec. 2020 with swastikas and the harrowing words “We are everywhere.” Also tarnished was the freedom spiral.  Unfortunately, this wasn’t the first time the complex was branded with graffiti of Anti-Semitic messages and racial slurs. A question asked by the media was, “Is this what we’re becoming?”

            When Anne was alive she’d seen more trouble than most of us. Did she need to be victimized, even in death? After her capture by the Gestapo, she spent twenty months in captivity, only to be turned into the authorities by an anonymous informant, who is said to have been an employee of her father’s. Sadly, Anne didn’t last long at Auschwitz. She died of starvation and dehydration, weeks before the concentration camp was liberated. Her diary was found in the annex by a family friend. I’m not sure if you know this but the authenticity of the diary was questioned. Surely, the naysayers speculated, an older, more erudite person wrote it. I, for one, believe it’s the real deal. When faced with death, I bet our pens are freed from the confines of the page and we speak the truth. Verse after verse is wrangled free and without a censor and judge, the words touch detach themselves from the core our souls. As Anne said, “I continue to sit with the open book in my hand and wonder why I was filled with so much anger and hate that I had to confide it all to you.”

            But Anne lives on, in her journals and statues How will you live on? Have you accomplished anything that is statue worthy? I know I haven’t, at least not yet. But I’m not going to give up on myself.         

         Rise up ladies. Do something great. Be heard. Write your hearts out. The world needs more women of courage. I imagine a future where there are millions of brave women dotting our landscape. Now that’s a beautiful sight.

 

“                         

I was a conductor of the Underground Railroad for eight years, and I can say what most conductors can’t say- I never ran my train off the tracks ad never lost a passenger.”

 

People are asking me how I pick the statue I write about. I reply by saying, “the statue usually picks me.” Most of the time I’m going about my business when- there she is- my next chiseled woman. Often I find her when I’m researching another project, reading a book or magazine, watching TV or a movie, listening to a podcast or talking to friend when I stumble upon an amazing woman that needs to be recognized. Let’s just say Harriet loomed large and I couldn’t ignore her.

She is one of the few females in history whose presence can now be felt everywhere. She’s embedded in the fibers of our history, and if you listen you can hear her shouting, “slavery is the next thing to hell.” I have a feeling that people are listening. Statues of Harriet Tubman are cropping up; they can be found stretched west through Indiana, Iowa and Michigan; north through Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, New England an even into Canada; and south to North and South Carolina and into Arkansas. A preliminary search for Harriet Tubman statues found nine, but everyday another state is making a pedestals for her as we speak. As they should be.

North Carolina, the state in which I now reside, has two statues that I know of. One is a bronze statue in Sylva, which replaced Sylva Sam, a white, southern member of the confederacy.  Replacing white males with women, and especially women of color, seems to be a national trend that is finally catching on. There’s another statue in Halifax, known as “Journey to Freedom,” which is part of a museum collection. The bronzed statue was commissioned privately and was created by sculptor W. Wofford.

My home state of New York has a few statues of Ms. Tubman. One can be found in Harlem. “Swing Low,” a larger-than-life statue, designed by Alison Saar, has found a home in Manhattan. Ms. Saar depicts the abolitionist, conductor, spy, scout, nurse, guerilla soldier as the formidable giant she was.

Harriet, code name Moses, was an incredible woman. Illiterate her whole life she led approximately 70 enslaved men to freedom. But her endeavors didn’t stop there. She went on to fight for women’s rights, cure dysentery using her knowledge of herbal medicine, lead a combat assault and serves as a miliary scout.

Some say she was unstoppable. A born leader who never gave up, Harriet lived to the ripe old age of 91. She’s a role model for anyone who thinks that one person can’t make a difference. We need more women like Harriet. But we also need more of Harriet, bronzed and proud. When you look into her eyes, you know you’re looking at a woman of greatness.

One statue changes the landscape. Thousands of statues change the world”

     

        For all of the other previous statues, I have discussed each statue individually. But the If/Then Exhibit is a collection of women that have been memorialized – not in stone, bronze, steel, wood, or glass but in acrylic gel. Instead of being sculpted, carved or etched, these statues are made in a 3D printer.

          If/Then is the brainchild of Lyda Hill Philanthropies as a way to encourage young girls into careers on a STEM path (science, technology, engineering and Math). And what better way to showcase STEM than through the use of a 3D printer capable of full-body scanning that creates life-size models of living, breathing and working women? Currently there are over 120 women displayed in North Park in Dallas, Texas. It’s the largest exhibit of its kind.

          This is exciting, to say the least. The interactive exhibit features a scavenger hunt and biographic history of all 120 women. If/ Then was created to develop a culture where women in STEM could become household names. The exhibit is a wonderful way for women to share stories, inspire the next generation of working women and change the course of history. Sad to say, its still a male-dominated profession. The current STEM workforce is only 30% female.

          Why? Good question. There are many theories; teachers and parents don’t reward girls for good grades in math and science; math and science were male-dominated worlds and girls weren’t encouraged to break the status quo. IF/Then works on the premise that there have been a lack of role models and a limited notion of mentorships. The new model is, “If She Can See It, Then She Can Be It.” Halleluiah!

          The exhibit was delayed due to COVID but it is open and ready for visitors. There’s a good chance you might find a similar exhibit popping up in your city. On a personal note, I’ve always loved science but found math cumbersome. The only one who ever encouraged me was my mother, even though I often out-scored the boys on tests and beat them in just about every award category. I was often told, “Why bother? You’ll just get married and have babies?”  Why didn’t anyone (include myself) ever assume I could do both? I compromised by studying speech-language pathology in graduate school, which I grew to love. The field is rooted in science and education but our arms reach into technology, especially in the field of assistive communication devices;  math as we analyze and graph multiple data points; and engineering when we create speech tools. How does your profession measure up to STEM?

          I hope young girls reading this join the STEM world and become household names. But for now, check out the If/Then website and learn the names of all 120 brilliant women and follow their amazing careers.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

 

            Located at Riverside Park in New York City on seventy-second street sits a monument honoring the former first lady and renowned humanitarian. The sculptor was created by Penelope Jencks and erected in 1996 and presided over by Hillary Rodman Clinton. The striking monument depicts Eleanor standing, legs crossed at the ankles, hands perched to her chain, as if in deep thought.    

            I’ve always considered Eleanor to be the more unattractive partner to her more dashing cousin and husband. But since Franklin lost use of his legs, Eleanor attended to the business at-hand as though she were born for the job of political attaché. Not only was she good at her job, she excelled.

            Recently I was given a writing prompt for a children’s book writing website and we were given the task of coming up with a 250-word story. The prompt was none other than the quote above for which Eleanor has often been credited. However, I couldn’t find anywhere that she actually said those exact words (also noted on quote investigators). There is a lesser quote from her syndicated newspaper column from 1957 where she said something about the dreams of those who drafted the US Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.

            But Eleanor had more to say. Lots more. On many topics. And people began to listen.

                                                       

 

 

 

   

                                                BARBARA JORDAN  (1936-1996)

                                          “We are a people in search of our future.”

 

          A friend of mine was traveling back from California when her flight was diverted to Austen, Tx. Understandably, she was not happy. But when she was greeted by a bronze statue of Barbara Jordon, the first woman to deliver the keynote address at a national convention (Democratic, 1972) she knew a higher power must’ve orchestrated the layover. As a crusader of women’s rights, especially for IPOC, my  friend right then and there pulled out her phone and listened to two of Barbara’s landmark speeches. First, to the speech given to the democratic convention, and then to her now famous testimony in front of the US House Judiciary Committee on the impeachment articles of the constitution regarding Richard Nixon and the Watergate breech. If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll  know that while I’ve written about twenty or more statues of the matriarchy, I’ve never once begged you to listen to them so you could hear their voice. Please! Forty-seven years later her speech about impeachment made my friend cry in the middle of a busy airport. It also brought tears to my eyes, as it will yours.

          Barbara is one of the most accomplished women in modern history. She’s the first African American to serve in the Texas Senate after the Reconstruction; the first African American elected to the US Congress from the south; and the first African American to serve as governor of Texas ( if only ceremonial, for one day). She was a civil rights champion, a proponent of immigration reform, a college professor and a commanding presence, bar none. Barbara captured me (and zillions of others) with her powerful voice, great oratorial skills, and her uncanny ability to break down complex moral, civil, and legal issues into language everyone can understand. Please (for all that is sacred to you, listen to her speak). Remember, we are stingy when it comes to creating statues of women, so men in power must also be singing her praise.

        The statues in the airport was sculpted by Bruce Wolfe and it suits her well. She is seated, fingers pressed together as though in deep thought, with a book on and a pair of glasses on her lap. I’d call her a female Barrack Obama, but comparing this exemplary woman to a man –no matter how however wonderful the man may be – demeans her. She is, in my opinion, one of the greatest women of the 20th century. There should be many more chiseled likenesses of her throughout the country. You can find another statue at the University of Texas at Austen where she taught. But perhaps you could start a campaign to raise funds to bring her to your city. Your mother, wife, daughter, granddaughter, niece, and friend will thank you. 

        Statues of women dot the landscape with history, female achievement, and humanity. But they’re also our future. They inspire us to greatness. 

 

 

 

     

      ” There is something healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after  winter.”

         In 2010, Time Magazine named Rachel Carson—biologist, conservationist, author— “one of the most powerful women in the world, in the past century.” I like to think of her as the “Mother of environmentalism.” Famous for her work on the dangers of pesticide use, she is the author of “Silent Spring,” one of the most influential books on ecological disasters.

            A bronze statue by sculptor David Lewis was installed in Woods Hole, Massachusetts in July, 2013. The life-sized statue reminds us to take better care of the natural world. For her work, which paves the way for tighter control of poisonous sprays, environmental toxins, and chemical spills, she was posthumously awarded the President Medal of Freedom by Jimmy Carter.

            Closer to my home, you’ll find another smaller statue in the NC Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh, NC. It’s located in the Rachel Carson Wildlife Gardens. Ms. Carson was employed by the US Dept. of Fisheries, and lived in NC, where she studied diverse habitats. NC likes to claim her as one their our own.

            Of note, Beaufort, NC,  is home to the Rachel Carson Reserve. Accessible by boat or ferry, you’ll find different environments cohabitating – tidal flats, salt marshes, sand dunes, ocean beaches, maritime forests and 30 wild horses. I had the pleasure of visiting the reserve where I imagined Rachel taking observation notes, toiling in the muck, and basking in the beauty of the unspoiled nature.

            Rachel passed away at the age of 56 from cancer. She had just completed her insightful masterpiece, “Silent Spring.” If you’ve never read it, please do. It will make you think twice before dumping something in the ocean, throwing trash out the car window or holding onto the concept that “global warming” is a trope.

              She was truly an amazing woman,. She deserves to be memorialized in stone, etched in bronze and remembered for her achievements. I wish there were more of her – in stone and in life. 

  

 

  

           On June 19, 2021 my son got married at the Glenora Winery in the finger lake region. In case you’re not familiar with the area, not only is it ripe with award-winning wine, lovely wedding venues and gorgeous crystal-clear lakes, it’s also steeped in abolition history and accounts of the suffragette movement.

            Located in Seneca Falls, NY (halfway between Rochester and Syracuse) on the banks of the Seneca River stands a statue of three women, knowns as major forces in the fight for securing the right to vote for women. As the story goes, on May 12, 1851 (three years after the 1848 historical convention, reported to be the birthplace of the suffragette movement), Amelia Bloomer introduced Susan B. Anthony, a teacher and temperance advocate, to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, a homemaker and a supporter of women’s rights. And the rest, they say, is history.

            When you look at the bronze statue, you notice Amelia Bloomer as the one with the short dress. Underneath she’s sporting “bloomers” which later became the attire for the movement. The statue, commissioned for the 150th anniversary of the 1848 convention, was sculpted by Ted Aub who depicted the easy relationship between Stanton and Anthony. Upon meeting, the two women quickly developed into a workable team, with Elizabeth doing most of the speech writing while Anthony watched Stanton’s children. Anthony then travelled across the country delivering the speeches in pursuit of equality between race and gender.

            Stanton and Anthony were both influential women in their own right. Unfortunately, neither of these women lived to see the 19th Amendment ratified.  The 19th Amendment, which gave all women the right to vote, became known as “The Susan B. Anthony Amendment.” Nearby is the Women’s Rights National Historical Park and Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s house as well as the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

            Keep your eyes open. Monuments of the matriarchy can be found everywhere. Not as many we I’d like, but if you look, they can be found in unexpected places. A trip to a wedding also morphed into a timeless adventure down the path of women’s rights. I was so in awe of the statue, I forgot to snap a picture of me with the trio. Don’t make the same mistake.

 

 

                     

“Me? I am happy because my heart is the base of your heart. I do not belong to people who are grimly staring into their own cloud and turn it in such a way, that I can only see its brighter parts.” Alma Karlin (in Isolanthis)

 

            I came cross this bronze statue of Alma Karlin, one of the greatest female travelers of all times, while watching an HGTV International episode about Slovenia. Alma makes an impressive statue and an even more compelling character. I took notice. I hope you will too.

            Born in 1889, Alma traveled the world alone. Between 1919 to 1927, she explored the Americas, the Far East, Australia, Hong Kong, and Fiji. Although she wrote about her exploits in German (see “Odyssey of a Lonely Woman”), she learned nine other languages during her travel escapades. People who knew her considered her to be a free-spirit who roamed the world crossing boundaries, literally and figuratively. When I think of Alma, a petite woman with big ideas, I envision a woman with a mind of her own. Although called quirky, she was a nomad of geographical vastness; a researcher who explored the depths of the human soul. While traversing the globe, she collected a wealth of ethnological materials, some of which can be found in the permanent collection in the Celije Regional Museum.

            The statue, erected in 2009, was unveiled in 2010 in memory of the 60th anniversary of her death, and 120 years after her birth. Alma’s life-sized statue is sculpted wearing a hat and coat, and carrying a huge suitcase, all of which represent her on-the-go personality. It is said that the sidewalk, on which the statue sits, is moving. She has a no-nonsense look on her face. Her arm appears in such a position that at any minute she might lift it to hail a taxi.

            How nice it must be to be revered as a traveler; a globetrotting woman who smashed conventional roles. She is truly a woman who should be memorialized in stone, for all eternity to remember. Rock on Alma!

 

             There are some statues that are quietly erected and arise few enthusiasts and naysayers. Then there are others that spawn protests, spark heated discussions and create ruckus. The latter is the case with a life-sized statue created by Swedish artist Susanna Arwin in 2015.

          The statue, “The Old Woman with the Handbag,” was inspired by a famous 1985 photograph taken in Växjö, Swede by photojournalist Hans Runisson. The photo depicted a 38-year-old woman hitting a marching neo-Nazi with her pocketbook. Years later, when the artist chiseled the statue, he aged her into an older woman depicting her against a younger, more volatile male.

          According to Henri Cartier-Brown, the photo captured a “decisive moment of an action” that could explicably deteriorate rapidly without effort. The photograph won the Swedish Picture of the Year in 1985 and was also voted Picture of the Century  by VI magazine. But in 2015, the statue unleashed revolts, many of which led protesters to send a message by hanging handbags on other statues. The protests resulted in the statue being moved a few times until it found its current resting place in the garden of Lasse Didings Waring in Växjö, Sweden. Another statue is planned to be unveiled in Alingas in the near future.

          Why the change of heart? Some people believed the statue promoted violence; even if the woman in the statue was described as elderly, it didn’t give her the righto use force against another person. But counter-protests said the statue was a representation of the weak rising up again oppression, inhumanity and bullying.

          I haven’t personally visited the statue, but a friend shared it with me when she was on a river cruise. I find the statue feisty, a visual representation of the ability of women to carry a heavy load while going about their everyday business.

          On a personal note, my mother always said that my pocketbook was always too cumbersome, like I was trying to fit all my worldly possessions in a rucksack. Good thing I didn’t listen to her and lighten my load because, if provoked, I could yield a strong defense.

          I can’t wait to snap my picture with this amazing statue one day. As always, I’m on the side of chiseled woman who rock. Whose side are you on?

         

 

           Calling all children: Philly has a new bronze statue. Standing 5 ft. 4 inches tall and modeled in the image of an African American middle school girl, the statue erected on July 31, 2019 has been dubbed MVP. She has a fierce competitive look on her face, which to me is similar to the look on the face of Fearless Girl in New York City. Although the statue was inspired by Ora Washington (1898-1971), a local athlete, she represents strength and heroism of all children who face adversity.

          The statue, which stands on a cement circle, elevated off the ground, can be found at the Smith Playground and Recreation Center in Philadelphia. What sets the statue apart from the 1,500 other statues in Philly is that she’s the first woman. When the sculptor Brian McCiutcheon won the competition to erect a statue funded by the Philadelphia Percent for Art Program (whenever the city spends over a million dollars on  renovations it must earmark money for public art) he decided to fashion the sculpture so it represented the people who use the park, often populated by local kids engaging in athletic endeavors.

          The statue is beautiful; she’s holding a basketball off to one side while caught in the middle of the game where she’s in the process of intense decision-making. Will she make a pass or take a shot? While MVP is portrayed as one lone player, our minds fill in the blanks. We see a team on the court, eagerly awaiting her next move. But we also see her guarding unseen opponents (just like in real life).

          What else can we see in her future? As one young girl of color says, “She looks like me.” And that one statement has the potential to inspire a nation to greatness. “If she can do it, so can I.” I haven’t see the sculpture. It was referred to me by a former colleague who lived in the area, but I hope to visit her one day with my grandkids. I want them to see firsthand that all it takes to get “chiseled” is some grit, teamwork, and the ability to make the next move even when it’s not visible to others.

          One more statue to help dot the landscape with monuments of women. Bronze power! Women Rock!

           

          If you’re like me, you’ve probably never heard of this statue, located in London, close to the House of Parliament and within selfie distance from The London Eye. My cousin, who has been to London numerous times, told me about Boadicea. In fact, she and I along with my husband, were supposed to tour England during the summer of 2020. But the coronavirus had other plans for us. We’re hoping to go in July 2021.

            The bronze statue is known as a sculptural group, a cluster of statues displayed as one unit. This cluster contains Boadicea, her two daughters, her chariot and two horse. It’s a massive monument and you’d think it would be hard to miss, but according to  the blog, “Stories of London,” and the expose, “Carve Her Name with Pride,” tons of visitors are distracted by other tourist attractions after they’ve walked across the Westminster Bridge. How dare they!

            Why should we pay homage to Boadicea? For starters, she’s considered a British folk hero, one that has songs, sonnets, and movies highlighting her accomplishments. Enya, the lovely Irish songstress, has  written a musical score, “Boadicea,” in her honor. In 1782, William Cowper, wrote an ode to her. “Rome shall perish- write that word. In the blood that she has spilt.” And in 2003, “The Warrior Queen,” staring Alex Kinston, played in the United Kingdom. Also, with her long, red hair and reported feats of courage, she sounds to me as though she’s the inspiration behind the Celtic heroin in the Disney animation, “Brave.”

            What did she do to deserve a statue? Back in 60 AD, when Britain was predominately ruled by women, she led an uprising against the Romans that resulted in the destruction of 2 or 3 Roman settlements and almost single-handedly drove the Roman Empire off the British Isles. She was married to Pratsutagus, King of the Iceni tribe, and upon his death, she became the leader. She was of royal descent and when the Romans questioned her right to the throne, she had her soldiers paint themselves blue to frighten the enemy. That strategy must’ve worked because during her reign, 75,000 Romans perished. Unfortunately, after fighting the good fight, she succumbed and died in 61 AD. Legend says that she drank poison to avoid capture.

            The impressive London statue is considered the magnum opus of sculptor Thomas Thorncraft, who started chiseling the huge bronze cluster in the 1850’s, but it wasn’t erected till 1902. Inscribed on one side is this quote: “Regions Caesar never knew-thy posterity shall sway.” Don’t miss your chance to visit history- a warrior queen from 61AD is something you don’t see every day. I plan on visiting England in July 2012; hope to see you there, cameras in hand.

            Boadicea is one of the monuments of the matriarchy you don’t want to miss. Women Rock! Stories & Statues. If we don’t tell Boadicea’s story, who will? 

                                           CAPE FEAR WOMEN OF THE REVOLUTION 

 

     Nestled inside the Moore’s Creek National Park in Currie, NC is a monument dedicated to the matriarchs of the corridor situated along the Cape Fear River between Fayetteville and Wilmington, NC.  This monument was erected in 1907, a time when women were rarely mentioned as having made any kind of military contribution, beyond that made in philanthropy and nursing.

      So who were these women and what efforts did they make that allowed them to win the marble lottery? Sitting atop the statue is Mary (Polly) Slocum, the wife of a hard-driven Ezekiel Slocumb, a lieutenant in the Patriot’s army. Polly’s claim to fame is based on a legendary tale, some of it etched on the base of the monument. “Polly, disturbed by a dream, arose and through darkness and on horseback sought her husband on the battlefield, 70 miles from home.” Imagine the sight she must’ve caused; a young woman, clad in pajamas, hair hanging loose down her back, riding a horse into the dead of night, the air still simmering with bloodshed. The loyalists must’ve either praised the lord or ran shrieking that they had seen a ghost. Either way, she changed the tone of the battle and gave the Patriots a leg up. Polly Slocum was a southern version of Lady Godiva; their very own secret weapon on horseback, covered in cotton and lace.

      I had a hard time finding other women of importance from the region. I was able to find mention of a Wilmington Tea Party led by women, fashioned in the spirit of the one in Boston and also in Edenton, NC. The plan was simple: the women hosted a tea party and instead of steeping the leaves, they burned them. Then the women convinced their husbands to boycott tea until the tax on tea was removed.

     There’s more of a story here, I just haven’t been able to excavate it.  Monuments are reminders of the past. Someone felt that women played a role in the war and wanted their efforts, not only acknowledged, but written in stone for generations to discover.

     Thanks, Cape Fear, for helping to dot the landscape with chiseled women. Now is the time to replace outdated and impractical statues of men with monuments of the matriarchy. Women Rock! Let’s not forget that.

 

                                                                   FEARLESS GIRL RBG

     IF you’ve been following this blog, you know that Fearless Girl is a favorite of mine. I even have a children’s picture book in process. But recently, following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, someone has draped a white lace jabot, or what has become fashionably known as a  “dissent collar,” around the neck of Fearless Girl.

    My mother had a white beaded collar in her jewelry arsenal that I inherited when she passed away. Whenever I wore it, people stopped me in the street to comment on it’s uniqueness. It made me feel like royalty. Now whenever I use it to adorn my black clothing, it will also remind me of RBG.

     Good news: a statue is planned in the likeness of New York’s very own Notorious RBG. Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that a statue will be built in her native Brooklyn. The statue will serve to memorialize the many contributions she made in the area of gender equality. According to Mr. Cuomo, Ms. Ginsberg “gave voice to the voiceless and uplifted those who were pushed aside by forces of hate and indifference.” As soon as its unveiled, the statue will be featured in this blog, hopefully with a personal visit and photo.

     Ruth Bader Ginsberg has been an inspiration for many fearless girls, who when faced with adversity also pushed onward and upwards against gender discrimination. She will be missed. And if you asked me, Fearless Girl has never looked braver.

 

 

 

            The Gullah-Geechee people are descendants of West Africans who were enslaved on plantations in order to increase the southern economy through cultivation of rice, indigo, and cotton. The Gullah-Geechee people harbored specific agricultural skills needed to make this endeavor successful. But they also brought with them their own unique culture, language, music, arts and spiritual experiences. The Gullah-Geechee corridor which extends from North Carolina to Florida is now being developed with museums and monuments that honor the Gullah-Geechee culture.

            Situated in Brookgreen Gardens, South Carolina, which is located on the Low Country Trail, are four stainless steel statues by Babette Block, designed to reveal a story about each person’s role on a low-country planation. The trail sits on a rice field overlooking a hill, which separates the plantation from the slave quarters.  The hill symbolizes the crest between home and work, or between freedom and bondage. The statues are stainless steel and when the light shines on them, they look like a glorious beam of hope.  The museum offers a 30-minute narrated tape, which is highly recommended.

           One of the statues is a Gullah-Geechee woman, carrying a basket made of sea grass. The baskets were designed by women and each one is representative of their distinct personality. Basket weaving is a craft, an artform and a cultural tradition. It was a way for women to express their stifled creativity. Also, the baskets are often shown atop the head of a Gullah-Geechee woman and symbolizes the heavy load that she carried. Brookgreen Gardens also has a Reign of Rice series that highlights other Gullah-Geechee traditions. If you travel along Highway 17 near Mount Pleasant, SC, you can see that sea grass basket weaving is still utilized today. Some men are also embracing the art form.

          Much has been said today about removing statues that glorify the confederacy and their aura of southern dominance. But these clusters of statues are different. First off, it’s nearly impossible to find a female Gullah-Geechee statue anywhere in the United States. This statue gives voice to the voiceless. We need to hear what she has to say, even if it makes us flinch. The statue is a powerful testament to the resiliency of the matriarchy and a reminder of the heavy load that women carry.

         The Gullah-Geechee culture needs to be more widely known and admired. It is the opinion of this blog that history must be preserved with respect and integrity, in order to right the wrongs that have been committed by our ancestors. The statues are riveting and very humbling. Come and see for yourself.  

 

I couldn’t write a blog about statues of women without including the Statue of Liberty. Born in New Jersey and raised in New York, I was fed on the statue’s notion of liberty. She has always been a beacon of freedom, a gigantic feminine representation of the power of women, at least that’s how I always saw her. I can’t even refer to Liberty as a statue as I have with all of the others, because to me she has a heart. As such, I will refer to the state as she or her from now on.  Ask any New York and they’ll tell you she’s the real deal.

            Without boring all of you with a litany of historic facts, I’ll highlight a few points. She was created by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, and wasn’t a gift from France to America as most people believe, but a pitch from a statue maker. Funded in part by Joseph Pulitzer who saw her as the potential gateway into America; a welcome mat in the shape of a women. I can’t remember the first time I saw her, but to me, she was always a vison of green, a goddess holding her own against New York city skyscrapers and expansive bridges. She always signaled an “Almost home” feeling. “Hold on,” she’d say. “Just a little while longer.” There a lot of discussions as to who she’s modeled after. Some say that her face was fashioned in the likeness of the sculptor’s mother.  Others suggest the statue was originally designed as a lighthouse slated for the Suez Canal, so her image, including her shrouds and sandals were that of an Arab woman. But others claim she’s designed after the goddess Literatus, and the seven spikes of the crown represent the seven oceans and continents. But does it matter? She’s glorious and beautiful regardless of her ethnicity. Or is she wonderful and spectacular because of her diversity?

I remember the first time I visited her on Ellis Island. I was about seven and my mother decided I was old enough to ride the ferry and climb to the top. What struck me as small child was her immensity. I knew she was tall. I could see that even from long distance. But it’s one thing to stand in front of her, all 305 feet of her, from the base to the torch, including the pedestal on which she stands. All statues need a pedestal, it’s what gives them their grandeur. I was able to read a few lines of Emma Lazarus’s epic poem. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” Even at age seven I was a prolific reader. My mother had given me the immigration speech so I knew that twelve million people, who were essentially homeless, had entered America and were welcomed by Liberty. My mother told me that my Irish relatives were parts of the multitudes. As a child I didn’t have trouble climbing to the top as I would in later years, but the view was insurmountable.  Heavenly is the word that came to mind. Roaming around the crown was like walking in a cloud of hope.

If you don’t live in New York you can visit replicas elsewhere in Tokyo, France, Norway, Ukraine, Brazil, Denmark and Seattle to name a few places. They say imitation is the highest form of a compliment. Women Rock! Help the statue’s message of liberty cast a wider net. Start a campaign so you too can have freedom in your backyard. What are you waiting for? We can never have enough liberty, and justice, for all.

 

          

            Standing tall  in Seattle, Washington, facing Elliot’s Bay along Alki Beach is a luminous statue of three young ladies wearing 1920’s swim suits. The women occupy a space that contains breath-taking views of the Seattle skyline.

            The statue was created by Lezlie Jane, a local artist, in celebration of women in history. It is made of pre-cut slab of steel and stands fifteen feet tall and is 9 feet wide. Impressive by anyone’s standards. The Luna Girls are holding life rings, a symbol of safety and security. When Seattle enthusiasts roller blade, bike, jog, or hike pass the statues, they are treated to a trio of historic joy. The Alki Bathhouse of the early 1900’s was the inspiration.  The path that leads visitors to the statue is considered one of Seattle’s Best Hikes.

            I have visited the statue, in a manner of speaking. While I did not stand in front of it, I’ve sailed by in a ferry to the San Juan Islands. My son and his fiancé live in Seattle and we plan to visit when the quarantine is relaxed. Maybe my son will get to Alki Beach sooner and snap a photo.

            I like to think I have a special historic connection to the statue. I have this photo of my grandfather in 1920’s beach attire. Trust me, it’s not something you see every day; a one-piece sleeveless swim suit down to the knees. My grandfather is also wearing the same fetching smile as the statues- must be the look of the day.

            As with everything in life worth talking about, the statues have a few naysayers. These malcontents claim that the statues distract from the view. In my opinion, public art is never a detriment to the landscape. But that’s just me, and the opinion of this blog What do you think?

           

 

This glorious statue located in San Diego on the river front was originally called “Unconditional Surrender” when it was installed in 2007. Re-installed in 2013, the name changed to “Embracing Peace’. The statue depicts the iconic kiss between a sailor and a nurse celebrating the end of WW11 in Times Square, New York on VJ Day, otherwise known as Victory in Japan, in 1945. I visited San Diego in 2018 and was on a bus tour when I first noticed the breath-taking statue. Something about it compelled me to go back and take a closer look. When I returned and and stood at its base, I couldn’t look away. To say it was merely statuesque was the same as saying Godzilla was a just a very large gorilla. The statue was achingly gorgeous, a chiseled reminder of a beautiful moment in time, etched in stone to help the world remember.

            I know most of the other statues highlighted in the blog were of women, but something about the “coupleness” of this one set it apart from the rest. It certainly represented many of the same ideals that the other statues did such as dreams of hopes, love, faith and peace. But it was more than that; it was if the partnership between the two strangers was the glue that had cemented them together in a kiss that locked them entwined for all eternity. And the way she is bending backwards to kiss him as his arm steadies her, signals a high degree of trust, not often seen in couples who have just met. If they could speak, would their words say, “War is over. Embrace love.”

            I’m sure many of you have read reports about the man and woman, who despite public outcry, did not go on to have a torrid love affair. We know that he was a soldier and she was a nurse, so both of them must’ve been ecstatic that the era of hatred was coming to an end, and hopefully was going to be replaced with empathy, compassion and tolerance. The mood that set the tone for the kiss was simply stated; the kindness of strangers will lead the way.

            Still, I imagine more for the nurse. She is at the center of a statement piece and her story needs to be larger than life. My mind events reason why she hid her face from the camera. Certainly, she wasn’t just a shy medical provider with a boyfriend who would be angry when he saw her face plastered across a national magazine kissing another man. She was a spy, involved in espionage, one whose covert operations lead to the end of war.

Another statue plants a seed for a story. Feel free to grab a lump of clay and run with it.