To celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26, 2021, I was the proud recipient of Monumental Women’s inaugural Moving History Forward Award in recognition of my work to support the creation of the Central Park Women’s Rights Monument (unveiled exactly a year ago). Read my acceptance speech below, or watch it (and the entire Monumental Women award program, which also honors my events planner, Penelope Cox) here.
Moving History Forward Award acceptance speech
August 26, 2021
It’s a high honor to accept the first annual Moving History Forward award, especially on the 101st anniversary of the 19th Amendment and the first anniversary of the unveiling of Central Park Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument.
I want to thank Pam Elam, Brenda Berkman, and all those at Monumental Women for this wonderful award and for the years of work they dedicated to creating the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument.
It certainly wasn’t easy, and not least getting official approval
It all started about eight years ago when a few good women stepped forward to create history, much as in the era of the suffragists we honor today.
The group that came to be known as Monumental Women set out to right a citywide injustice– until a year ago, there were only five works of civic sculpture portraying real-life women.
So, we banded together, and in the spirit of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth and the thousands of women who risked their lives for suffrage, we set out to break the “Bronze Ceiling.”
I bet Stanton, Anthony, and Truth must be smiling somewhere at the hoops Monumental Women were made to jump through to create a statue honoring three of the most important figures in American history.
The answer “No” came in many forms:
“The Park is closed to new statues”;
“Women don’t want a statue, they want a garden”;
“If we say yes to this statue, we’ll have to say yes to any statue.”
And my personal favorite: “You have to prove that each of these women had actually set foot in Central Park.”
Nevertheless, we persisted.
Funding was a challenge, as it was for the suffragists. Only my office and that of City Councilmember Helen Rosenthal put in public money.
The rest came from generous individual donors, foundations, NY Life and– in a testament to feminism– local Girl Scout troops who donated the money they raised from cookie sales.
Well, it took 70 years to get the vote, but only seven to get the statue, and if you listen carefully you can just hear Stanton’s voice: “Don’t worry ladies, we’re getting there.”
During last year’s unveiling of Meredith Bergmann’s beautiful statue, you had a sense of really being part of an historic moment.
For the first time, women and girls could come to Central Park and see a statue celebrating women and the power of their voices.
But anyone who knows the tenacious justice seekers of Monumental Women knows that their work is only beginning.
They’re challenging cities across the country to erect monuments honoring women and people of color.
Statues are a powerful statement about what– and who— a community values. Monumental Women is making sure the forgotten fighters throughout history are finally front and center.
Again, thank you for this inaugural Moving History Forward Award. It’s been an honor to move history forward with all of you.
To a future filled with “monumental women!”
Gale A. Brewer
Manhattan Borough President
August 26, 2021
Categories: News from Gale Brewer