America Needs More Stone-Faced Women

On Oct. 28, 1886, exactly 125 years ago, President Grover Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty. The statue, a gift from France, was celebrated with fireworks and New York City's first ticker tape parade.

There is no mistaking that Liberty is a Lady. She is a towering figure in New York Harbor, branded the Mother of Exiles, a female Atlas in flowing robes bearing the burden of the world's symbol of freedom. She is regal, stoic, weathered but unbowed.

And while Liberty has served admirably as the world's leading lady, women -- real women -- have been unable to replicate that reverence, unable to establish themselves in perpetuity in the form of public statues.

There are more than 5,193 public outdoor sculptures of individuals in the United States, according to the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Art Inventories Catalog. Yet only 394 statues are of women. That's less than 8 percent. Men, however, are represented by 4,799 statues. And of the 44 national memorials managed by the National Park Service, not one focuses specifically on women and their accomplishments, according to art historian Erika Doss.

The lack of a significant presence of women among the nation's statuary and monuments signals an ugly truth: Men matter more.

History brands a man a hero, and a woman likable enough. But there is no doubt that some women are heroes. And women have put their imprint on every aspect of our society, just as men have. Women have played vital roles in medicine and finance, education, the law and entertainment. They have served as leaders and followers and foot soldiers, committed to the good, smart work that makes any society more viable. Women are CEOs and stay-at-home moms, secretaries and secretary of state. Women have worked tirelessly for the greater good, often alongside the men they knew would get all the credit.

It is time for U.S. leaders -- women and men -- to work in tandem to get more sculptures of women in the American landscape. A good place to start would be Washington, D.C., the nation's capital.

In 2000, Congress voted to allow replacements for the 100 statues -- two notable historic figures representing each state -- in the Capitol's National Statuary Hall.

Before 2000, only six of the 100 statues were of women. So far, only one of the 11 states that has replaced a statue has voted to replace a male figure with a female one.

In 2009, according to the Washington Post, Alabama voted to replace a statue of Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry with one of Helen Keller. More states need to follow Alabama's lead. In April, the Maryland General Assembly failed in this mission when it ended its session without voting on whether to replace a statue of John Hanson, a Revolutionary War hero, with one of Harriet Tubman.

In New York City, where I live, there are only five statues of real women. There is Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Joan of Arc and Harriet Tubman. Each lady needs no introduction. The city's male statuary, however, is another story. The urban landscape is peppered with the likes of the Rev. Jerzy Popieluszko, Franz Sigel and King Wladyslav Jagiello.

The dearth of statues and monuments honoring women belies the myth that America's history was borne singularly on the backs and minds of men. But that is a well-rehearsed lie that is the legacy of misogyny and bias in America. History knows better. Americans deserve better.

Lion Calandra is a Senior Editor at