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.

 

Iconic Mary Richards, a spunky Minneapolis Minnesota newswoman, portrayed by the effervescent Mary Tyler Moore, has her own 8 ft. bronze statue. Mary stands on the corner of Nicollet Mall and 7th St, the same spot Mary famously tossed her hat towards the sky in the opening credits of the 1970’s sitcom. The theme song, “Who can turn the world on with a song,” was her anthem. Mary is now housed inside a Visitor’s Center, which provides guests with a hat that can be tossed in the air for a photo shoot.

I have never visited this statue, a friend alerted me to her existence. But she is definitely on my “To Do” list.  When the statue was first erected in 2002 by Gwendolyn Gillen, she caused quite a stir. For those of you not familiar with the show, Mary was a trendsetter. She represented women everywhere when she broke free from the traditional role of wife and mother. Upon her death, her costar Dick Van Dyke, called her an urban legend who left an impression on the hearts of mankind.

I like to think I have a personal connection to Mary. She reminded me of my mother, a woman who also blazed the path for feminism. My mother, like many other women during WW11, embraced wartime as an opportunity to forge ahead in the workplace. She became an executive in the garment district and was often photographed wearing a wide-brimmed black hat that she “paid a lot for”. My mother wore that hat everywhere, and even though I never saw her throw it up in the air, I like to imagine she did.

Rumor has it that a concerned fan has provided Mary with a mask and gloves to keep her safe from the coronavirus. Of course, they did, she’s going “to make it after all.”

 

When I was 16, I went to Alaska with my aunt and uncle and two female cousins. I rode in a motor home with all the comforts of domesticity. I was the same age Sacajawea was when she served as an interpreter for Lewis and Clark on their Corps of Discovery Expedition. She was either pregnant or lugging a small child through uncharted territories from the Missouri River to the Pacific Ocean. My path led me from Long Island,  NY to Alaska, in the middle of the summer. We may have spent five days traversing the unpaved Alaska-Canada Highway, but nobody erected a statue in my honor.  Sacajawea had her likeness chiseled time and time again along the Lewis and Clark trail.

            The first and only statue I found of her in 1971 was located in Washington Park in Portland, Oregon. This bronze statue was roughly 8 ft, tall and had been dubbed “The Madonna of the Trail.” It’s easy to see why: Sacajawea is holding her son Jean Baptiste Charbonneau who accompanied her on the trial. Funded by The Women’s Suffrage Association, the statue was created by Alice Cooper and unveiled in 1905. Etched are these words: “Erected by the women of the United Sates in the memory of the only woman in the Lewis & Clark expedition, and in honor of the pioneer mother of Oregon.”  It’s not an impressive statue as far as statues go, but the words are an eternal message of hope and praise. Sacajawea acted as a Shoshone interpreter, and despite her youth, inexperience and foray into motherhood, her tenacity and bravery were well-respected.  Many people saw her as a beacon of peace. One of her favorite sayings, “Everything I do is for my people,” is still uttered in many indigenous circles.

            There are more statues of Sacajawea than any other woman in the USA. Don’t get me wrong, she’s amazing and deserves the bronze treatment. There have been a few recent additions erected along the landscape of America, many of which are glorious, especially the one in the Cascade Locks Marine Park and another one in Three Forks, Montana. But don’t take this the wrong way. Surely, there have been other incredible women in recent years worthy of a bronze bath. I’d be happy with copper, marble or even glass.

Care to nominate someone? Let’s dot the world with monuments of the matriarchy!

 

 

          I found the bronze statue of Emily Carr, a Canadian icon, while I was on a cruise to Alaska. The trip was winding down and Victoria, British Columbia was the last excursion before disembarkation in Seattle. Keep in mind that I had just spent 13 days exploring the glorious Pacific Northwest frontier and the Alaskan glaciers as my backdrop. Breath-taking at every turn doesn’t adequately describe the magnitude of the scenery. So, why did a small bronze sculpture of an eccentric woman with a monkey on her back pique my interest?

            First off, the statue is situated in the best spot along the harbor front; nestled in front of the Fairmont Empress Hotel, next to the BC legislative building. Jaw-dropping views of the deep blue sea and majestic Cascades mountains paint the backdrop. At night both the hotel and the government building light up like a twinkling cruise ship and a Disney castle, respectively. Before I go any farther, I need to tell you that Victoria is possibly the most gorgeous city in North America; it’s as if an offspring of a horticulturalist and a British architect designed the city with a mindset that it was best to err on the side of opulence. What did Emily Carr do to deserve a statue in such an aristocratic city, knowing full well that men are usually bestowed with ts honor?

            Emily, 1871-1945, was Canada’s most recognized modern painter. Her complicated life took her to San Francisco, London, Cornwell and Paris where she refined her craft and cultivated her style. She painted portraits, still life, landscapes and flowers but is known as the earliest chronicler of life in BC, especially that of the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest. Her achingly beautiful artwork followed a “God as Art” style.

            A heart attack at a young age led her to pursue writing where she excelled in the genres of fiction and non-fiction. She even penned a ghost story.  In her later years she became a devout animal activist. The monkey on her back, which is not often spotted at first glance, is Woo, her pet Japanese monkey. I like to think he represents her exotic talent; and although it took a toll on her life, she guarded it and kept it close to her heart. Emily was a feminist who had to fight many battles to gain acceptance into the art world. But like many women of merit, she persisted. Most Canadians consider her to be the darling of the women’s movement. The statue, by Canadian sculptor Barbara Paterson, was erected in Oct. 2016 as part of Women’s History Month.

            Emily is a timeless treasure for any culture. I am glad she has been memorialized in bronze for the future. Long live the Queen of Canadian art!

 

Fearless Girl is a bronze sculpture by Kristen Visbal, commissioned by State Street Global Advisors via McCann New York. She was installed in March 2017. The statue depicts a girl facing the Charging Bull, or Wall Street bull as he is otherwise known. With hands on hips and feet planted firmly on the ground, Fearless Girl portrays bravery in the face of adversity. The sculpture was installed in anticipation of International Women’s Day. Since her installation, Fearless Girl has caused quite a stir with locals and tourists. You can find Fearless Girl and the Charging Bull in front of the NY stock market exchange.

I have not personally visited Fearless Girl but next time I get back to New York to visit family I will make it my business to snap a photo. But ever since I saw a photo of the statue, I can’t stop thinking about this brave girl. So I started a children’s picture book. You will notice how I slipped my profession into the story, seamlessly, I hope. 

 

            FEARLESS GIRL (a picture book in process)

            Feet planted firmly on the ground, chin held high, chest forward, hands behind her back, clenched in tight fists, Luiza was unmovable. With her fierce stance and flaming brown eyes, she was unbreachable.

            Not today, her body screamed.

            Louder it yelled. You will not charge at me. For today, it is me who is in charge.

            Then Luiza woke up covered in sweat. Blankets and sheets all in a tumble.

            “Fighting the bull again?” asked her mother as she shook out her daughter’s comforter.

            “He didn’t get me. I was too brave for him,” said Luiza, a nine-year old fourth grader.

            “Such a sweet dream,” said her mother.

            Luiza followed her mother into the kitchen where she was met by her sister and father, who were sitting at the table eating eggs rancheros.

            “If you only practiced more, your dreams would come true,” said Rosa, her older sister as she sprinkled salt onto slices of avocados.

            “I, I, I c-c-c can’t help it,’ said Luiza. “as soon as I wake up, the b-b bull grabs me by my t-t-t tongue.”

            “Then don’t let him do it,” said Papa. He sipped a large cup of black coffee.

            “Her speech therapist said she’s been using her smooth speech strategies in speech class,” said her mother.

            Luiza paced around the kitchen, opening drawers and closet doors. Her father took notice of her agitation.  “I think it’s time we showed her  how to take the bull by the horns,” he said.

 

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That’s all for now. Perhaps you’ll find a finished version one day. Or maybe you want to write your own story. Either way, I hope you continue to read more about the way women can become empowered. One statue at a time!

 

 

           

           

           

 

 

 

The first statue that got into my blood and rendered me anemic was Joan of Arc. I was 17 at the time and visiting France with an International Studies Program. My mother had convinced me that I was named after Joan of Arc. She said Joan’s real name was Jeanne, as that was the traditional French spelling.  When I was a child and loved all things French like Madeline and Jean Marie books, French words like ohh la la and anything Parisian, my mother told me that when Joan was 14 years old, she led a revolution. Although I wondered about the “voices that spoke to her” and the “burned at the stake” business, I succumbed to the lure of Joan of Arc. She was a goddess and I was honored to have such a formidable namesake. Even though I read everything I could get my hands on, I wanted more. I wanted something that rang true.

            I went to Europe as my right of passage high school trip. Orleans, a fantastic small French city, was our host for four of the ten weeks. Joan of Arc and Orleans have a reciprocal relationship. The residents adore her and she showers them with riches, mostly in the form of tourism. The first time I laid eyes on the monument, situated in a large square in the middle of the city, I was gob smacked. Joan of Arc was a child! How could I have missed that critical piece of information? There was no way a teenager could became a legendary soldier, responsible for the 14th century freedom march. Was there? 

Sad to say, I left France with a nagging suspicion that there was much more to Joan of Arc’s story. But life got in the way, and I pushed her aside and dug into creating my own saga. Now that I’m retired and life has replaced my “have to do” list with a “want to do” list, I find Joan of Arc rising up in my in-box.

 

            There are a few ways I can go with this project: write a non-fiction chapter book for middle schoolers; create a picture book for younger kids or compose an essay for a literary magazine. But the question about how Joan, at age 14, sparked a revolution, still haunts me. But as I think about high school kids of today, perhaps we already have young people tooting a revolutionary horn. There is Greta Thunberg making noise about environmentalism and the Parkland survivors sounding the gun control alarm.

            Statues immortalize women who have made a difference. Without monuments, Joan of Arc would be flat and one-dimensional. Instead, she is a person of interest, one who has survived for centuries, chiseled in stone or etched in bronze, waiting for the future to uncover her.

            Check back in a few months. See if I’ve made any progress with the excavation process.