Sculptor finishing Central Park women's monument

On a recent day in her Ridgefield, Connecticut, studio, Meredith Bergmann was putting the final touches on a truly monumental project.

"These are very small subtleties," she said, as she used a carving tool to detail the top of a giant hat, "But they all help give the illusion that the thing is real or better than reality."

No detail is being overlooked on this statue, because the women depicted, and all of the pioneering women who came before and after them, have been overlooked for far too long, she said.

"My hope is, people will take away the fact of the neglect of women's achievements," she said as she sat next to the 14-foot statue. "The fact that there were women's achievements, and I hope people of all ages will become far more curious about what has happened."

When it's unveiled this spring, the Women's Rights Pioneers monument, featuring Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton discussing women's suffrage in the 1860s, it will break the so-called bronze ceiling as the first and only statue of historical women in Central Park. There are 23 monuments honoring men.

"The sad thing is, that so many people for so many years didn't even realize real women were missing. What does that say about the discrimination women face. or the lack of role models for young girls or young boys and just a fair representation of history?" asked Pam Elam, President of the non-profit volunteer group Monumental Women. The group formed seven years ago to fight for a women's rights statue, and promote an educational campaign. The group raised 1.5 million dollars to pay for the sculpture.

"We're moving history forward," Elam said.

Bergmann, who also created the Boston Women's Memorial, was chosen by Monumental Women to be the project sculptor in July 2018. Since then, she and her team of assistants have been working to mold it into a larger-than-life reality.

"This is the fastest I've done a monument at this scale," Bergmann said.

While the design originally included just Anthony and Stanton, Truth was later added to give it a layer of diversity.

"This scene is supposed to convey working together in complementary ways including discussions, argument, reinforcement, inspiration," Bergmann said of the design, which shows Truth speaking as Stanton listens with her pen poised, and Anthony has just entered and put down her bag. Bergmann wants it to also convey "That women, children, minorities, people who are ignored can achieve change by working together."

A 3D printer helped bring the sculpture from a model to full scale, and in the coming weeks, molds will be cast from the clay, and taken to a bronze foundry in the City where a final bronze version will be created.

"It's majestic, and when people look at it, how can they not feel a connection. the respect and the ability to go forward and do these women honor by continuing the fight for equality?" said Elam.

The monument will officially be unveiled in Central Park on Literary Row on Aug. 26, which will be the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote.


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