Three local trailblazing women have been chosen to have statues of themselves created and placed in front of the Buffalo and Erie County Public Library. It may not seem like a big deal, but it is significant because, of more than 100 public monuments in Western New York, only 2% honor women.
Karen King, Erie County commissioner for public advocacy and executive director of the Commission on the Status of Women, money for the project is still being raised, but she hopes to be able to put out a Request for Proposals at the start of the new year.
"We're pleased that we have a woman who was the first professional architect in the United States, Louise Bethune, who of course designed the hotel Lafayette and was a big proponent of women's rights, Mary Talbert, world-renowned human rights and civil rights activist, and Geraldine 'Sid-tar' Green, who's a member of the Seneca Nation who is a faith healer and educator," King said.
She said the design of each statue will be chosen from the RFP submissions.
King said the underrepresentation of women in public art has been a heated discussion, especially leading up to this year's 100th anniversary of Suffrage. As COVID and other political and social justice issues grab headlines, she said it is important we not lose sight of the systemic discrimination against women.
"A lot of things changed once COVID hit and a lot of larger conversations started taking place about systemic problems in our country, including who we memorialize and who we honor in our public spaces," she said. "So I think it's really important that we must continue to represent women and recognize their contributions and the significance they played. Whether it be in a local perspective, in a community or national or internationally, it's important that everybody sees that, not just young girls or women."
A bronze statue of the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg is planned to be unveiled in her hometown of Brooklyn on March 15 of next year to mark Women's History Month. Only 8% of public statues in the United States honor women.