NEW YORK — Wander through Central Park past monuments to figures including Christopher Columbus, Alexander Hamilton, William Shakespeare and Sir Walter Scott, and it may suddenly hit you: Where are the women?
There are none, if you discount fictional characters like Mother Goose and Alice in Wonderland.
Even a heroic dog has its place amid the park’s 843 acres of greenery, but every one of the 23 statues or busts of real humans in the park honors a famous man.
Some Girl Scouts are now trying to change that. They’ve joined activists raising money for a park monument to two women who revolutionized the country: suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.
“We’re trying to crack the bronze ceiling,” deadpans Pamela Elam, who is spearheading the effort along with Stanton’s great-great-granddaughter, Coline Jenkins.
The aim of the awareness and fundraising campaign — called Central Park, Where Are The Women? — is to erect the statue by 2020, the centennial of U.S. women’s right to vote.
“There are no statues of women, and there’s tons of men,” says Pippa Lee, 10, a scout with Manhattan’s Girl Scout Troop 3484. “We really need a woman’s statue for girls to look up to, not just Mother Goose or Alice in Wonderland. They don’t count.”
The effort has drawn the support of the Central Park Conservancy, a private nonprofit whose millions of dollars help beautify the urban oasis. Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver also has given the green light to the suffragist monument, which is to rise by Central Park West at the 77th Street entrance.
So far, the nonprofit raising private donations — the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund Inc. — has collected at least $150,000 of about $500,000 needed to create and maintain the monument. About the same amount would cover landscaping and an educational program.
Across the street, the New-York Historical Society plans exhibits and lectures on key roles of women in American society.
On a bright fall Thursday, 10 scouts from Troop 3484 joined activists in the park to make their case. Stori Small, 10, noted that she wants women to be represented by “an actual person; I don’t want it to be a cartoon character.”
During one weekly scout meeting in Central Park, the fifth-graders collected $123 from passers-by on a sidewalk near the future statue site, while chanting “Where are the women?” Sunflowers graced the girls’ hair, a symbol of the suffrage movement that began its march to victory with a convention in upstate New York in 1848.
The girls plan to collect donations on Thursdays through the fall.
For the same cause, students from Manhattan’s LaGuardia High School are selling bracelets inscribed with the words “Bring women of history out of the dark and into the park.”
Any artist may submit a monument design following certain criteria, with a handful of finalists creating models to be displayed at the New-York Historical Society. A jury will pick the winner sometime next year.
This story has been corrected to show that Pamela Elam is spearheading the effort with Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s great-great-granddaughter, not great-granddaughter.