Do you know you’re extra prone to see a mermaid than a congresswoman memorialized in American monuments in the US? And also you’re a lot extra prone to see a person with a musket than a lady, says the National Monument Audit of 2021.
Up in opposition to the centuries-old obsession with white army males within the American monument panorama, ladies in Lexington, Mass.—floor zero of American army historical past—are main the cost to create a monument to ladies within the city’s historical past. However they’re predictably encountering important headwinds.
The primary shot of the American Revolutionary Conflict was fired in town commons within the Battle of Lexington on April 19, 1775. The city is now residence to the Minute Man National Historic Park commemorating the lads who fought within the battle. Ladies’s contributions on the time are only a footnote on the web site.
Lexington is typical. “We might not discover how just some tales have been disproportionately commemorated in a rustic created by multitudes,” reads the Nationwide Monument Audit, carried out by the Monument Lab—a public artwork and historical past studio primarily based in Philadelphia that seeks to “illuminate how symbols are linked to methods of energy and public reminiscence.”
“We might not know which voices are lacking, which contributions have been elided, or how a lot the monuments and memorials now standing misrepresent our collective historical past,” in line with the audit.
To deal with this misrepresentation in Lexington, a devoted group of volunteers fashioned the LexSeeHer monument challenge, with a view to commemorate ladies who’ve made important financial, political, mental, social and cultural contributions within the “Birthplace of American Liberty”—ranging from the early years of the city’s incorporation in 1713 by means of to the current.
“The monument options over 20 ladies of various ages, races, professions and different lenses of id, and spins a extra inclusive narrative of Lexington’s historical past by making ladies’s contributions to their neighborhood and nation seen,” mentioned Jessie Steigerwald, president of LexSeeHer.
Designed by Meredith Bergmann, the monument portrays these ladies in bas aid round an empty central area so guests can stand amongst these necessary ladies to take their place within the sweep of history. Organizers envision a web site the place individuals can share pictures of themselves.
With the help of many in the neighborhood, LexSeeHer proposed a website for the ladies’s monument within the city middle, which presently doesn’t have a single monument to acknowledge ladies’s contributions to the city’s historical past among the many many monuments to males and their army achievements.
In response, the city’s Tourism Committee and Monuments and Memorials Committee rejected the positioning, suggesting the ladies ought to contemplate discovering a “much less offensive website.”
Folks against the central location proposed, near Buckman Tavern and the Battle Inexperienced, mentioned that it needs to be “someplace much less important,” “much less seen” and “someplace quiet.”
“Different criticisms we’ve got acquired embrace that girls had nothing to do with the battle or the Revolution, and that the monument needs to be smaller and have extra female curves,” mentioned Valerie Overton, LexSeeHer communications chair. “In actuality, ladies have at all times performed an necessary position within the pursuit of liberty and freedom.”
These demeaning attitudes are precisely why the monument is required, says Michelle Tran, LexSeeHer Secretary. “The monument asks questions: What has liberty meant for ladies? The place is ladies’s place? What does it imply to be a ‘free’ girl? What did it imply within the 18th century? nineteenth? twentieth? twenty first century?”
Criticisms we’ve got acquired embrace that girls had nothing to do with the battle or the Revolution, and that the monument needs to be smaller and have extra female curves. In actuality, ladies have at all times performed an necessary position within the pursuit of liberty and freedom.
Valerie Overton, LexSeeHer communications chair
The proposed website is throughout from the city library, adjoining to the business middle and close to the guests middle, on land the place one of many ladies within the monument lived on the time of the Battle of Lexington—a tavern keeper named Ruth Buckman. The positioning is close to the house of Anna Harrington, who hosted 45 ladies for a spinning protest in 1769, and Margaret Tulip, a lady with Black and Indigenous ancestry who sued for and gained her freedom from enslavement in 1768.
The monument acknowledges revolutionary ladies like Phebe Bannister Burdoo, a free Black girl whose son later served within the firm of Captain John Parker, and Abigail Harrington, who’s proven awakening her son on April 19, 1775 with the decision “The Reg’lars are out, and One thing Should Be Executed!” This slogan was later echoed as a battle cry by Caroline Wellington, a granddaughter of the Revolution and suffragist, additionally acknowledged on the monument.
The monument could be sited close to the primary public Regular Faculty, the place Mary Elizabeth Miles Bibb turned the primary Black girl to graduate in 1843 and went on to work as an abolitionist, journalist and trainer. The monument depicts Bibb alongside astrophysicist Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin, who found the composition of the celebs and was the primary girl to realize a tenured place at Harvard that wasn’t reserved for a girl.
Lexington is typical of the American monument panorama that includes white army males—whether or not it’s revolutionary minute males, Accomplice troopers or veterans of later wars—and provides the mistaken impression that white males, and army males, are most worthy of honor and remembrance.
This panorama minimizes the contributions of ladies and historic figures who made achievements in lots of different necessary areas, together with peace, public well being and civil rights.
“The place inequalities and injustices exist, monuments typically perpetuate them,” in line with the Nationwide Monument Audit report. “Monuments suppress excess of they summon us to recollect; they aren’t mere info on a pedestal.”
The Nationwide Monument Audit requires us all to ”do our half to vary our commemorative panorama and to raised seize the multivocality of our nation in our public areas.”