Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument (2020) is a monument depicting three US women, the first representation of real women in Central Park since its opening in 1858. (A non real-life example is José de Creeft’s wonderful Alice in Wonderland at the north end of The Conservatory Water).
Located on Literary Walk centred (east/west) in the park and leading south from Bethesda Terrace, it honours Elizabeth Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and Susan B. Anthony, each an especially important figure in the United States women’s equality movement.
At the time of its installation, sculptor Meredith Bergmann’s piece bookended another female sculptor’s Central Park work, Angel of the Waters by Emma Stebbins who was in 1868, when her piece was installed, the first woman ever to receive a public art commission in the City of New York. It stands nearby at the centre of Bethesda Fountain, to the north.
The timing of this new installation was significant, during the summer campaigns of the Black Lives Matter movement, yet ironically the concept of a physical representation of Sojourner Truth, a Black woman—a New Yorker— who escaped slavery and worked for abolition and women’s rights, was an afterthought.
Not until Monumental Women (the corporate alias of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund Inc)—responsible for the monument’s creation—added Truth’s physical likeness to their namesake duo did the New York City Design Commission approve the submission which had included Truth in name only, amongst other activist women.