Above: Clay-fashioned maquettes that anticipate the design
New York’s Central Park is about to welcome, albeit belatedly, the first women to its roster of twenty-two male statues. The statues will immortalize two suffragists who fought long and hard for women’s right to vote—Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. “Can you imagine, the only women they have are Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose and Juliet (with Romeo)—no real women!”noted Greenwich’s Coline Jenkins, the great- great-granddaughter of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Coline, who is dedicated to keeping the legacy of her ancestor alive, has played a major role in “breaking the bronze ceiling” by convincing the commissioner of New York’s Department of Parks and Recreation, Mitchell Silver, to “redress” the lack of women statues. Coline walked us through this historic decision and how it’s scheduled to play out in Central Park.
Former professor of philosophy, Dr. Myriam Miedzian set out to correct the gender imbalance in 2013 by forming a committee to select and fundraise for a female monument. Stanton and Anthony were selected. Coline was enlisted due to her success in having rescued a composite sculpture of Stanton with Anthony and Lucretia Mott from the basement of the U.S. Capitol and restoring it to its rightful location in the Capitol Rotunda.
In November of 2014, Coline watched New York City Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver give his first public address. After hearing him say, “I believe in equality and equity,” she approached him and asked if he knew Central Park has no statues of women. “No,” he replied, “I’ll look into it.” Lifting a long-standing park moratorium on any new statues, the commissioner informed Coline and her committee that they had been granted a site.
The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund Inc. (of which Coline is a vice president) was granted a significant site at the Central Park West and West 77th Street entrance. The location is across the street from the New York Historical Society, where Theodore Roosevelt sits astride a horse. Coline recounts one of Stanton’s last imploring correspondence to Roosevelt: “Surely, there is no greater monopoly than that of all men in denying to all women a voice in the laws they are compelled to obey.”
Former U.S. Commissioner of Fine Arts Diana Balmori is helping to form a statue design committee. Coline hopes that the statues will take their place as early as 2017 (the 100-year anniversary of women receiving the right to vote in New York) and certainly by 2020 (the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment). Currently the committee is raising the half-million dollars needed. “We’re looking for support from those wishing to be a part of putting the first female statues in one of the most famous parks in the world. As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said, ‘Failure is impossible.’”