Trailblazing Women planning monuments of 3 local trailblazing women

Feb 21, 2020

There is a memorial on the waterfront for Flight 3407 victim Alison des Forges, perhaps the only public monument to a woman other than in a local cemetery. A local group plans to change that and has three candidates for new statues of women.

Trailblazing Women had a meeting in the Merriweather Library Thursday night to have three supporters talk about the candidates: Mary Talbert, Louise Bethune and Geraldine Green, often known by her Seneca name, Gawö:sid-tah. The plan is to have the three statues near Buffalo's Central Library.

University at Buffalo Professor Lillian Williams said Talbert fought the good fight in the great issues of the early 20th century, particularly Jim Crow.

"Those rights began to erode, particularly after the 1896 Supreme Court decision that Jim Crow reigned, essentially, and these women organized to address them," said Williams. "They saw race issues, gender issues as being intertwined. They were very concerned about the right to vote because that was the way in which they could protect the interest of their communities."

Bethune was the first woman licensed architect, mother of the Hotel Lafayette and many other local commercial and residential buildings. Architect Kelly Hayes McAlonie said Bethune cut a path with buildings and point of view, although not a feminist.

"Even though the term is a bit of a misnomer, because the term 'feminism' wasn't really acknowledged in the 1890s, I would say that when they say that, I think they mean suffragette and I would agree that she did not necessarily think of herself as a suffragette," said Hayes McAlonie. "She thought of herself as a conservative person, but where she was very strident was in her belief in pay equity."

Green worked to keep alive Seneca traditions and the language. UB Professor Alyssa Mt. Pleasant knew Green and talked during a visit to her home.

"That conversation prompted a new line of thinking and helped me broaden and even transform parts of my analysis of the history of the Buffalo Creek Reservation," said Mt. Pleasant. "I'm indebted and thankful for that conversation, for the generosisty and humor that Sid-tah shared with a younger woman she had just met."