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Statues of women suffragettes heading to Central Park

November 19, 2018

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. (AP) — In two years, Meredith Bergmann’s statues of women suffragists will become a permanent piece of Central Park’s history, but until then, they will call Ridgefield home.

Bergmann will work on smaller replicas and eventually the final 15-foot monument of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in her Ridgefield art studio before they are unveiled on Central Park’s Literary Walk in 2020, on the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment granting women the power to vote.

The former New Yorker was selected out of 91 candidates to build the statues as part of a campaign to add the first monument representing real women to the park.

Now, the park has 22 male statues and only fictional women characters.

The bronze suffragist monument will also add two new names to the five current women statues throughout New York City, where there are nearly 150 statues of men.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity — it’s breaking the bronze ceiling, as they say,” Bergmann said. “This (lack of representation) has got to change. It is important now that young women will be able to see historical accomplishments by women.”

Bergmann’s design was chosen winner by The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund and its Monumental Women Campaign, which will pay for the statue and is looking to offer grants to other cities trying to add statues of women.

The design competition asked artists to create a statue that showed Anthony and Stanton’s importance in the women’s rights movement and include at least 17 names of women who were part of the suffrage movement.

For Bergmann, this meant highlighting the collaboration between the two women. The design, based on a photo of the suffragists, features Stanton, who often wrote speeches Anthony would deliver, sitting and writing on a scroll with Anthony standing above her.

The scroll, which will stretch 24 feet long, will include the names and quotes of 23 other significant suffragists. When the statue is revealed, a website including a “virtual scroll” will also be unveiled for the public to add to.

“I didn’t want to clutter it up compositionally, but I also loved these speeches and articles and the things the women said about ... their need for the vote to protect themselves,” Bergmann said. ”(And) the idea was to continue this scroll so that comments, speeches and news items could be added to it so there’s a continued history for women’s rights as they continue to be won throughout the world.”

Building the statues, first out of clay and then with bronze, will be a familiar task, Bergmann said.

She has built many public art pieces during her 40 years sculpting, including the FDR Hope Memorial and the Boston Women’s Memorial, which she said is where she first got the “history bug.”

Right now, she is working on a three-foot version of Anthony’s statue, which will ultimately be nine-feet high. An even smaller version, like one on display at the New York Historical Society, will accompany Bergmann for a talk at the Ridgefield Library at 2 p.m. Sunday.

Working on smaller replicas first allows her to work out any issues before moving to the final size, Bergmann said.

As with the original design, she said, adjustments will be focused on accurately representing the women in a way that makes them “come alive.”

“I keep doing the research all throughout,” Bergmann said. “Every time I want to change something, I need a reason for it. I get that reason out of the women’s lives and their story.”

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Online: https://bit.ly/2DL6OxL

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Information from: The News-Times, http://www.newstimes.com

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