Mar 30, 2023 - News

Women are underrepresented in Columbus' statues

Illustration of a stone sculpture of a woman, with a large crack running through it.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Women leaders across Ohio are planning for a monument to women's suffrage and equality to be installed on the Statehouse grounds in 2026.

Why it matters: This would be the first Capitol Square monument dedicated to real American women and their accomplishments.

  • Most local public statues depicting women are mythological or abstract — such as "Peace," a winged figure on the square's north side.
  • Nationwide, just 6% of monuments depict actual women of history, per a 2021 report.

The latest: A bipartisan commission is expected to select an artist in the coming weeks, state Sen. Stephanie Kunze (R-Hilliard) tells Axios.

  • After that, fundraising will ramp up and the artist and commission will decide what and who the artwork will portray.

What they're saying: Kunze, who chairs the commission, was inspired to pursue the project by encountering school groups who tour the Statehouse, many from her district and throughout Central Ohio.

  • "If you can't see it, it's really hard to be it," Kunze says. "It's important for all of Ohio's children to see women playing a part in government."

Flashback: The local effort started in 2020 with a celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.

  • A suffragist monument debuted in New York's Central Park the same year, increasing awareness about the lack of diversity in sculptures nationwide.

The big picture: In honor of Women's History Month, Axios' Chelsea Brasted looked into whether that has led to actual change — and found that progress is slow going.

Between the lines: Monuments have historically represented our values by putting concepts and people on literal pedestals, then enshrining them with protective status and decades-long upkeep.

  • But public art in the U.S. has long presented a lopsided view that American history is nearly all horses and white male military veterans.

Of note: Columbus' only public statue depicting a woman is inside John Glenn International Airport, WOSU reported in 2020. It honors Geraldine "Jerrie" Mock, the first woman to fly solo around the world, a 29-day trip departing from Columbus in 1964.

  • Mock, born in Newark, was one of Ohio State's first women aeronautical engineering students.

📬 We want to know: Which Ohio women would you like to see honored with a monument? Where would you put it and what would it look like? Email [email protected] and give us a history lesson.

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