Statues For Equality by Aussie Artists Gillie + Marc Schattner Unveils First 10 Public Statues in New York

Zimbabwean scholar Tererai Trent has been immortalized in a bronze statue in New York

Zimbabwean scholar Tererai Trent has been immortalized in a bronze statue in New York

Life-size statues of 10 accomplished women across a wide spectrum of global life were unveiled in New York this week. Standing next to larger-than-life humanist-activist stars like Oprah, Nicole Kidman and Cate Blanchett is Zimbabwean scholar Tererai Trent.

Trent grew up in Zimbabwe where girls were not educated. Determined to learn, Trent taught herself to read and relocated to the US in 1998 through the efforts of an American nonprofit that visited her village. This “dream” come true of getting a bachelor’s degree, a master’s, and a PhD was realized after she wrote down her aspirations, sealing them in a tin can and burying them deep in the ground.

Trent’s life in America was hardly a carefree, upwards climb, but like so many women, she is a survivor. Today Dr Tererai Trent is one of the world’s most internationally recognized voices for quality education and women’s empowerment. Distinguished as Oprah Winfrey’s “All-time favorite guest”, Trent is a prominent activist for equal rights to education. Read more about Dr. Trent’s story.

Where . . . oh where are the women?

The lack of representation of women in public spaces has long been associated with patriarchal attitudes and the general “invisibility” of women globally.

New York is grappling with its own embarrassing dearth of female statues in Manhattan and the five boroughs, with a whopping 3% of public humans honored being female. Consider that one of those memorable female “beings” is Alice in Wonderland in Central Park, and you understand the scope of the problem.

Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park.

Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park.

There’s a note of irony in two Aussie artists seeking to remedy New York’s “no women statues” problem, but in the era of Trump, we’ll take any help we can get. Sculptors Gillie and Marc Schattner launched Statues For Equality to commemorate Women's Equality Day on August 26 under the "Sculpted for Equal Rights" banner.

Note that Sydney and London are also in the ditch with their own scores of 4% and 3% of historical women statues, suggesting that New York can be a global launchpad for their effort, a hunch confirmed by the Statues For Equality website.

The New York project is just the start of Statues For Equality and the initiative is now worldwide, with projects in many different countries, including Australia the UK and the US. Gillie and Marc are keen that the sculptures are representative of all women and know that the public are the best people to ensure this happens! 

“We hope that as the project expands, it will include a broader diversity of race, class, ability, sexual orientation and gender expression,” says Gillie.

Besides Blanchett, Kidman, Trent and Winfrey, other women honored with New York statues include Cheryl Strayed, Gabby Douglas, Jane Goodall, Janet Mock, Pink, and Tracy Dyson. Read their stories.

Central Park Women's Suffrage Monument Redesigned to Include Sojourner Truth

Central ParkWomen's History  Monument.jpg

For nearly a year, the proposed Central Park statue honoring women’s suffrage in America has been plagued in controversy. It’s difficult to believe that in 2019, planners of the monument could be so tone-deaf to the race-related arguments swirling around America’s women’s rights history.

The Women’s March 2017, organized by a group of women who refused to honor legendary women’s rights Hillary Clinton, after her defeat by Donald Trump. signaled a new day for setting the record straight — the truth and also new lies and distortions — about the history of American feminism.

The original design by sculptor Meredith Bergmann visually elevated two prominent white women — Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton — over a scrolling list of 22 other women, seven of them women of color. AOC disagrees with the complaint that Anthony and Stanton were metaphorically “standing’ on the other women.” But they certainly look like boss ladies at a time when younger people are rejecting hierarchy and white superiority, along with a nonexistent recognition of the contributions of people of color — and slaves specifically — in building America.

For context, there is NO statue of any nonfictional female of any skin color in Central Park and around New York, writes the New York Times. The park currently features no historical women but statues of fictional girls like Alice from Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice in Wonderland’ and Juliet from William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet.’

While a new visual of the proposed statue to be erected on Central Park’s Literary Walk by 2020 is not available, it’s a miracle that the proposed design was aborted at all. Women including Gloria Steinem helped turn back the design against the nearly insurmountable rules and regulations that defined its artistic creation initially and the legitimate controversy that ensued.

“Our goal has always been to honor the diverse women in history who fought for equality and justice and who dedicated their lives to fight for Women’s Rights,” Pam Elam said in a statement. The president of the Monumental Women’s Statue Fund, the group financing the sculpture, added: “It is fitting that Anthony, Stanton, and Truth stand together in this statue as they often did in life.” via Hyperallergic.