WOMEN’S PLAZA OF HONOR @ The University of Arizona/Tucson

Celebrating Women’s Lives- Past, Present and Future


            Wherever I travel I’m on the lookout for monuments of the matriarchy; and my recent trip to Tucson and Sedona turned out to be quite productive (see September’s entry). I was pleased to find that smack in the middle of downtown Tucson, on the campus of UA, near the Gender Studies Program, sits the Women’s Plaza of Honor dedicated to the Women of Arizona whose contributions to society have made a difference, not just to the southwest, but to the world at large. I felt like I’d hit the statue lottery.

            The plaza consists of six wings or arches that highlight a variety of accomplished women: Inspirational Women; Women of the 1540 Cibola Journey, African American Women, Southern Arizona women, Women Activists, and Women Lawyers. Who are these women and what have they done to get their name chiseled in granite to be memorialized in perpetuity? For the most part, they’re ordinary women who when faced with the complexities and injustices of life used creative outlets to become extraordinary. While hundreds of women, are represented by having their name engraved on the monument, I’ll briefly highlight five: Margaret Sanger, Sandra Day O’Connor, Women of the 1540 Cibola Journey (as well as other indigenous women of color),  African women from the Chapter of the Links and my niece, an art therapist with creativity and empathy to spare.

            Margaret Sanger, born in 1879, a time when women were second class citizens, was instrumental in taking women’s rights into the next century. After working as a nurse, she became a birth control activist and sex educator writer. Tirelessly advocating for women, she later formed Planned Parenthood, an organization that to this day, delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of people worldwide. Unfortunately, Ms. Sanger passed away a year before birth control— for all women – was legalized. She proclaimed, “No woman can herself be free who does not control her own body.”

            Sandra Day O’Connor, born in 1930, died at the age of 93. Intelligent and perseverant,  she became the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. Politically conservative, she still worked against discrimination of women, something she most certainly encountered in her lifetime.

            African American women of Arizona such as Dr. Doris Ford, Etta Mae Dawson and Tommie Thompson were instrumental in securing scholarships for women of African American ancestry through the Tucson Chapter of the Links. Each woman, a champion in her own right, not only faced adversity but persevered. Strong, fierce and tenacious are their adverbs. Check out their names as well as many others chiseled on the arch.

            The Women of the Cibola Journey, who accompanied the Spanish explorer Francisco Vázquez de Coronado on the search for the mythic empire of riches known as the Seven Golden Cities of Cibola, found themselves in an epic fight for their lives. As the story goes, the myth supposedly created by the Zuni Pueblo tribes living near the border between Mexico and Arizona, was a lie, created to throw off the “savage explorers” who rampaged, raped and pillaged their way through the southwest, wreaking havoc wherever they went. This ill-fated group of Spanish explorers, however, are credited with the first sightings of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River. Throughout their two-year trek, numerous indigenous people, most of them women, were taken against their will to serve as free labor and entertainment. Despite all efforts, the golden cites were never located. I’ve not heard about this wild journey before but it brought tears to my eyes. I’m glad Arizona honors these women by making their story known. Women are not property, to be dragged along, kicking and screaming.

            The Inspirational Women of Arizona arch was my favorite. It’s a place where any woman with ties to Arizona, past, present or future, can be memorialized for their accomplishments. Like my niece (she’s not engraved on the arch, but I’m optimistic). Perhaps you can nominate yourself. New names are added yearly. All you have to do is achieve, succeed and make noise. As the saying goes, “well-behaved women rarely make history.”

            The Women’s Plaza of Honor is a special place to relax, contemplate, meditate or just bask in the sun. We need more of these group memorials where everyone can honor, remember and revere these brave women who not only shattered the glass ceiling but created a spot where ceilings will never hold anyone back again.

            Women rock! Today, tomorrow and yesterday. Next time you travel, do what I do. Find statues of extraordinary women and bask in the glow of their brilliance. They will inspire you, as they do me.



“Carve out a place for yourself. Aspire to new plateaus.” llan Shamir


            If you’ve been reading this site for a while you’ll know I’ve stayed close to my original premise, which has been to honor statues of women and raise awareness to the paucity of monuments delegated to the matriarchy. But this month’s entry, I deviate and include other-worldly monuments found in nature, particularly those red rock spires or buttes found in Sedona, Arizona.

            On a recent trip with my husband to visit our niece in Arizona I became bewitched by the beautiful red rock formations that adorned Sedona. I’m not naïve to nature’s wonders, I’ve already experienced the beauty of the Grand Canyon and Niagara Falls, but they still didn’t prepare me for the intensity of enchantment I felt for Sedona and the stronghold it clamped upon my psyche. Simply put, I became entranced by the vortex, or spiraling energy that wheels and turns throughout the region, often eliciting a meditative aura and metaphysical state of euphoria. Before you roll your eyes, hear me out. Listen while I convince you why the red rock monuments at Sedona, or at least Cathedral Rock, should be included in my litany of monuments dedicated to the wonderfulness of women.

            Sedona, with its red rock vistas and vortex of spiritual energy, is often called “a museum without walls.” It’s easy to see why. The views are not only spectacular, the vivid colors are so striking they shine with luminosity, as if the gods had kept the best hues for themselves. Sedona, formed by the fracturing of the western edge of the Colorado plateau, is said to contain 4 distinct vortexes that channel an inflow and outflow of masculine and feminine energy. The first vortex we visited was the Sedona Airport, high atop a hill, where the electrical charge is said to strengthen masculine energy. The views were so amazing I wanted to proclaim myself King of the Hill, but none of us tingled or buzzed with newfound energy. Bell Rock, the second vortex we stopped at, proposes to enhance aspects of femininity and masculinity while prompting these opposing parts of the self into a more harmonious and balanced state. It’s a gorgeous formation carved to look like a bell and while we were bedazzled by the monument, none of us felt the earth move, pivot or rotate. Yet. After we left, I couldn’t help but marvel at the deep carvings, supposedly formed during an inhospitable time on earth. To be honest, Sedona’s entire vista looked as if the red rock formations were strategically placed or created by a higher power. PHEW! A few hours in Sedona and I’m envisioning a scenario that only one versed in New Age teachings, tarot cards or palm readings could fathom. Much to my surprise, Bell Rock had found a way to calm my inner turmoil with its sereneness and innate optimism.

            On a crunch for time, we skipped Boynton Canyon. Instead, we headed to Cathedral Rock, where we found the best view in the whole region. Once atop a steep rocky mountain outcrop where dozens of other red rock formations came into the forefront, we were treated to a 360-degree panoramic landscape. My husband, who suffers from vertigo, felt dizzy at the summit. My experience differed, possibly because Cathedral Rock is said to aid feminine aspects of the divine. Where my husband experienced nausea, I felt the whirl of the vortex spinning through me like a hypnotic tsunami. It was similar to the sensation you get when jumping on a trampoline, right before you plummet, when you’re still suspended in midair: light, buoyant and boundless. Helen Ready’s powerful lyrics, “I am Woman. Hear me Roar” soared through me. I reigned supreme.

            Did I experience an epiphany atop Cathedral Rock? Did the vortex infiltrate my inner sanctum?

            While my time at Sedona didn’t yield any long-lasting psychic healings, chakra alignments, karmic cleanings and I didn’t find my divine purpose, I still got caught up in an emotional blizzard of cosmic energy. There’s no denying that Sedona fills you with an undeniable magical essence. It’s as if the rock formations were created for the sole purpose of bringing beauty, spiritualty and enchantment to our world.

            I think the reason I felt the spark at Cathedral Rock was because I believe in the power of monuments, whether manmade or natural. All statues, carved or chiseled, are tributes to the Spectacular. They’re an homage to the Ones who are a cut above the rest, whether they sit on a pedestal or a rock; they dot the landscape with physical reminders that the world is luminous and the people in it are equally monumental. 

            Rock on, my friends and readers!



Aviatrix, Author & Absolutely Amazing Woman

“Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn’t be done.” AE


            A statue of Amelia Earhart was recently unveiled in the US Capital’s Sanctuary Hall where Amelia joins one hundred other statues (yet only 5% are women). Her seven-foot bronze statue, ten feet if you include the pedestal, sculptured by George and Mark Lundeen, will represent the state of Kansas. Her likeness, which depicts a beautiful and determined woman wearing a leather helmet, her signature bomber jacket and carrying goggles, was placed in the hall on the 85th anniversary of her disappearance.

            Amelia has an impressive resume, with many “firsts.” She was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, the first woman to fly ‘solo’ across the Atlantic, the first woman to fly ‘solo’ from LA to Mexico City, the first woman to fly nonstop coast to coast, and the first woman to fly across the Red Sea to India. When she embarked on her “round the world” flight she would’ve been the first woman to do so.  Sadly her plane disappeared. She was only thirty-nine. How did she accomplish all this in such a short period of time? Some credit her with spunk, fortitude and a love of adventure while others claimed it was luck, good looks and publicity that took her from a small-time pilot to an aviation pop star, one with enough start power to capture the heart of America.

            When she was ten she believed that a little red plane spoke to her as it swooshed by. Was it Fly with me or You can do it too? But soon after, she was taking flying lessons and making short runs in the air. Unheard of for a woman, nothing short of miraculous for a girl. Then she captured the attention of George Putnam, a publicist who asked her if she’d like to be the first woman to fly ‘solo’ across the Atlantic. Without hesitation, she agreed. When he inquired if she’d like to be the first woman to fly ‘solo’ around the world, she was all in. She also said yes to Mr. Putnam when he asked her to marry him.

            In 1937, gassed up and ready to soar into history she took off into the great blue wander in a twin-engine Lockheed Electra. The concept of a “solo” flight can be misleading; Amelia wasn’t alone on the trip, she had her navigator Fred Noonan, with her. Midway across the pacific they were scheduled to make a short stop in the Howland Islands but somewhere over the open ocean the ground crew lost radio contact with her plane. Lots of speculation arose about her disappearance. Was it planned? Did she want to escape from the hectic life she’d created? Was her plane sabotaged? A few years later, some bones were discovered on nearby Nikumaroro Island that may have offered answers. But very soon the bones were dismissed as being her remains. It wasn’t until recently when new scientific methodology revealed that the fragments found were likely that of Amelia Earhart and her navigator. Case solved? (for more information see www.ameliaearhart.com)


            I comfort myself in knowing that she died/disappeared doing what she loved. Her legacy won’t be forgotten. She used her celebrity to start The Ninety-nines, a women’s aviation society. As an equal right’s advocate, Amelia believed that her “complex aviation skills proved that women could hold jobs that were mostly reserved for men; especially in careers that required intelligence, coordination, speed, coolness, and will power.” Amelia was much more than a pretty pilot with a publicist husband, she was also a social worker, a nurse, an author, entrepreneur, role model and women’s rights advocate. According to Nancy Pelosi, when you look at her statue, you “hear the sound of wings.”

            To me, that sound is an audible representation of bravery and freedom. It’s the sound of a woman smashing the class celling of oppressive misogyny, patriarchy and gender stereotyping. It’s the most beautiful sound in the whole world.

            While I applaud Amelia and her groundbreaking accomplishments,  we have miles to go before we catch up. I love the fact that her statue replaced one that belonged to a man, simply because he met the criteria of the day: male and pale. But we can do better. Women like Amelia need to dot the landscape with the bronze matriarchy. Statues of women need to be chiseled, placed on a pedestal and memorialized. Everywhere.

            Women rock. So do their statues and stories. Let’s get chiseling.


GERTRUDE STEIN (1874-1946)

“If you can’t say anything nice about someone- come sit next to me.”


            The first time I heard of Gertrude was after watching the 1960’s screwball comedy, “I love you, Alice B. Toklas.” I remember thinking that Gertrude Stein, with her avant-garde Buddha-like presence and quirky Alice had a story to tell; one that far beyond Peter Seller’s comedy and my own boring middle class suburban life.

            The statue installed in 1992 in Bryant park, NY, located next to the NY Public Library, is 225 lbs. of polished bronze and sits on a pedestal, displaying Ms. Stein in a seated position with the gravitas, given only to The Buddha himself. Apparently the Parisian sculpturer Jo Davidson had the same vision of Gertrude as I did- not only was she a trailblazing author, arts patron, literary salon facilitator but her gender-blending lifestyle allowed others to become comfortable in their own skin; a necessity artists must possess if they want to create true, unadulterated self-expression.

            A trust fund baby, Gertrude moved to Paris when she was 30. There she met Alice, her mustached unconventional life partner. As a fan of cubism and eclectic art, Gertrude purchased paintings of little-known artists and displayed their works on the walls of her Parisian apartment (Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, Gaugin, Renoir Toulouse-Lautrec).  Soon the “almost famous” writers arrived (Sherwood Anderson, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ezra Pound, T.S Eliot) and the Literary Salon was born. Gertrude’s apartment became a mecca where a community of writers networked, critiqued and inspired each other to greatness. Gertrude’s novel, “The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas,” is, and was, considered a literary superstar (she created what is now known as the unreliable narrator and gave the literary world a new way to tell their own story by redefining the scope of autobiographies.)

            Then there’s the relationship between Gertrude and Alice that single-handedly reconstructed gender by questioning what it meant to be male/female; feminine /masculine; even husband and wife. We’re still questioning these terms decade later but it was her bravery that sparked the conversation. Yes, she affirmed, we can say that out loud.

            Gertrude lived her life as a work of art. She was a collection of diversity; a patron of the arts, author, philanthropist, cultivator of culture and defender of human rights. She was larger than life. Her memory, chiseled in bronze and set upon a pedestal, sits for all to see. When you visit her statute, sit next to her for a while. Think. Then ask yourself, what can I do to make the world a better place? If you think you can accomplish one iota of what Gertrude did, then you’re sitting pretty. Otherwise, you have work to do, my statue-loving friend. Lots of work.



Samantha Smith (1972-1985)


“God made the world for us to share and take care of. Not to fight over or have one group of people own it all.” S. Smith, 1982


            This is the second time I’ve gotten an idea about a statue from watching the CBS Sunday Morning Show with Jane Pauley (the first one was actually responsible for the birth of this blog) so I wanted to give this informative and highly entertaining show a shout out. If you’re not watching or streaming it,  you should be.

            Let’s meet our statue-of-the-month. Samantha Smith is, according to writer Elliot Holt, “One of them;”  a legendary girl like Joan of Arc, who despite her youth and short-lived years has made a lasting impression on our planet’s history. Her timeless message of hope and peace are just as important today as it was during the Cold War. Russia has often been called a “Sleeping Bear,” and Samantha at the tender age of ten, wasn’t afraid to get in the cave with it and confront nuclear devastation head on. And for that reason she deserves all that she was given: a bronze statue, stamps, books, and a designed school holiday.

            Here’s what you need to know about Samantha. In 1982, when she was in fifth grade and a student attending an elementary school in Manchester, Maine she wrote a letter to Yuri Andropov, the then leader of the Soviet Union, and asked him to think deeply before he embarked in war with the United States (https://alphahistory.com/coldwar/letters-samantha-smith-yuri-andropov-1983/. Bold on her part, but not unusual. Before the internet and social media, school kids wrote letters all the time to politicians, athletes, movie stars. But her letter differed in one respect; the leader of the Soviet Union responded. He not only wrote back but he invited Susan and her family to Russia on a mission of peace. And Susan with her engaging personality and good diplomatic instincts won over the Russian people. Samantha took her ambassador job very seriously and refused to be a political puppet on a string. Peace was her goal and comradery between two combative nations was her mission. A tall task for a girl without any formal negotiation training. But what Samantha lacked in resolution strategies, she more than made up for it with extras doses of tenacity.

            Then the naysayers arrived and claimed that she was being used by both sides. They said she was nothing more than pint-sized war propaganda machine. None of that deterred Samantha. She used her celebrity to write a book, become an actress and inspire children of all ages and cultures to speak out against nuclear war.  But sadly, at the age of thirteen, she and her father were killed in a plane crash. We can only wonder what she would’ve accomplished had she lived to adulthood.

            Here’s where you can pay tribute to such an amazing girl:

·       A bronze statue of Samantha Smith resides near the Maine Street Museum in Augusta

·       Visit a peace garden in Michigan along the St. Clair River

·       In Maine, the first Monday in June is designed as Samantha Smith Day

·       Her image is posted on a stamp

·       Read “America’s Youngest Ambassador: The Cold War Story of Samantha Smith’s Lasting Message of Peace” by Lena Nelson

·       Peruse “Journey to the Soviet Union” by Samantha Smith

·       Check out “You Are One of Them” by Elliot Holt


            Ms. Smith was able to accomplish all these things by age thirteen. Impressive. If she was born today she probably would’ve become an influencer and social media phenom. But even in the 1980’s she made quite a stir. Even though Samantha hadn’t yet turned eighteen, she still has a place among all our other monuments of the matriarchy. She rocks-and what a story she has to tell.

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.


                                           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.