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Design

The Gender Gap in Public Sculpture

There is almost no public art commemorating history-making women in America. We need to change that.
A statue of Eleanor Roosevelt, located in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A statue of Eleanor Roosevelt, located in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington, D.C.Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Statues of women never get names. They’re archetypes, symbols, muses, forces. The Statue of Liberty. The Statue of Freedom. Day and Night. The Three Graces. Women appear in memorials galore, as the Victims of, the Spirit of, the Contemplation of, the Apotheosis of—but hardly ever as real women from lived history, with first and last names.

Across the hundreds and hundreds of statues in New York City, just five depict historic women. There are 22 statues of men in Central Park alone, but not one (non-fictional) woman. In Washington, D.C., a city chock-a-block with marble memorials, there are five statues depicting women from history: Joan of Arc, Olive Risley Seward, Mary McLeod Bethune, Crown Princess Märtha of Sweden, and Eleanor Roosevelt. (Maybe more if you count some private sculptures, but not more than two or three, here and there.)