Carrie MaKenna

Studio & Gallery, Denver Colorado

What We're About at the AZ Foundation

Statue of Helen Jordan, 1984 Morrison CO


The AZ Foundation raises funds to encourage, support

and promote arts, education and preservation projects throughout Colorado.


We're on a mission to fund, create and place public artwork commemorating achievements by women

of Colorado .

We've chosen this direction because of the significant lack
of commemorative artwork about specific identifiable women throughout the world and in Colorado. Although there are
women portrayed in a lot of public artwork they are typically allegorical or represent women in general rather than honoring a specific woman.

We will begin this mission by looking at the more than
160 women already identified and honored by the
Colorado Women's Hall of Fame. Additionally, we will use
our projects to hire and pay women Artists.

Progress Report

    We've nearly completed a survey of public artwork commemorating specific identifiable women in Colorado.

     And it's pretty exciting. We already have more than 20 pieces of public art commemorating Colorado women here in Colorado. We still have a long way to go, but that's more than New York City and Washington DC combined!
     The existing pieces range from outdoor sculptures, oil paintings, stained glass, mosaic and even a public drinking fountain.
    A new piece commemorating Fannie Mae Duncan is in the works and scheduled for placement in Colorado Springs CO on October 29, 2019. We hope you'll attend.
    There's a lot to be done so please join us and help make the dream of commemorating Colorado women in public art a reality.
     Here's how:

Dr. Justina Ford, Bronze, Five Points Denver CO


You can help us make this mission a reality by joining one of our Working Project Teams to determine projects and get them produced.

INVENTORY/SURVEY TEAM (1-5 Teammates): Help survey and Inventory commemorative public artwork about specific identifiable women throughout the state of Colorado.

PROJECT TEAM (1-5 Teammates): Each Project Teams will select a woman from the Colorado women's Hall of Fame and identify a location to host/house a piece of public art about that woman. These places may be indoors or outdoors in public access locations. Good placement locations are Colleges and Universities, Government Property, Public Parks and Facilities, and Non-Profit Organizations buildings. They will spearhead raising funds and help select Artists and Artwork, accessing Colorado women artists first whenever possible.

INVESTMENT TEAM (1-5 Teammates): Work with Project Teams to secure funding for our projects. Since we are a 501(c)3 we are able to seek grants and non-profit funding. We can also raise money from private, business and non-profit donations.

SELECTION TEAM: Work with Project Teams to select Artists and Artwork to create commemorative public artwork about Colorado Women and their contributions, accessing Colorado women Artists first whenever possible.

MEMBERSHIP TEAM: Help us grow our membership. Design and create engaging Activities and Events that support our Mission.

Feel free to make a tax-deductible donation to our
General Operating Fund below.
Or become a sustaining Member with a donation of your choice
on the right. THANK YOU!


INDIVIDUAL - 1 Year $45

Discounts on Activities and Events.

SUPPORTER - $150/year

Colorado Mighty Women Calendar

Discounts to Private Events with Artists

FRIEND - $250/year

Colorado Mighty Women Calendar

Discounts to Private Events with Artists

2 Event Guest passes

ADVOCATE - $500/year

Colorado Mighty Women's Calendar

Recognition at one event and the Website

Discounts to Private Events with Artists

2 Event Guest passes

PATRON - $1,000/year

Colorado Mighty Women Calendar

Recognition on the Website

Signed Art Print

Private Events with Artists

4 Event Guest passes

LEADER - $5000/year

Colorado Might Women Calendar

Recognition on the Website

2 Signed Art Prints

Private Events with Artists

6 Event Guest passes

Our Love and Devotion

SUPREME BEING - $10,000/year

Whatever you want (within reason)!

Annual Membership Levels

     This was when I knew what the mission of the AZ Foundation had to be.

     It was 2017 and we were traveling in London and Amsterdam. During the downtime of waiting for airplanes and trains I had been reading articles about the lack of public art commemorating specific identifiable women.

     But it was when we literally bumped into the sculpture of Agatha Christie in London that I knew what needed to be done.

     This public art had it all. It was about her. It had a bust of her in a cutout in a giant book that also featured the theater curtain and floorboards. Around the base it listed her contributions to literature, stage and screen as well as her philanthropy and other activities.

    This was what public art about women could be. I knew then that the AZ Foundation could play a part in Colorado.

Here are just a few of the Colorado Women who are commemorated in Public Art in Colorado.

Clara Brown, Stained Glass, Capitol Bldg.

Mary Miller, Mosaic, Lafayette CO

Teresita Sandoval, Marble, Pueblo CO

Helen Bonfils, Oil Painting, DCPA

Virginia Neal Blue, Stained Glass, Capitol Bldg

Sadie Likens, Bronze, Capitol Grounds

5280 Magazine Online | March 6, 2019

Where’s All the Public Artwork Honoring Colorado Women?

Through her AZ Foundation, Carrie MaKenna is on a mission to seek out and install artwork that represents the achievements of Colorado women.

By Meredith Sell

     Strong women. That’s the heritage fourth-generation Coloradan Carrie MaKenna proudly boasts—from her Irish immigrant great-grandmother, who took the reins of her family’s finances and owned several homes, a grocery store, and an auto repair shop in Denver’s historic Baker neighborhood, to MaKenna’s mother Ruth Greiner, who used money she’d inherited to co-found the American Zang Education Foundation (now the AZ Foundation) in the 1990s with her husband Rod Greiner.

     “The strength of the women in my family has been a driving force in my life,” MaKenna says. In 2017, when she inherited her parents’ foundation, MaKenna decided to shift its mission to honor women like her mother and great-grandmother. “I was searching for an idea that would include the arts [and] that would support women somehow.”

     Over the last several years, reporting by Smithsonian and the Washington Post has called attention to the fact that historic women lack representation in the form of public monuments. Both publications referenced estimates suggesting that of the 5,000-plus public outdoor sculptures of individual people in the U.S., less than 8 percent represent women.

     MaKenna wasn’t aware of this reality until the national conversation in 2017 exploded around confederate monuments in the South and what they could be replaced with if they were torn down. As she tuned in, she started learning about the lack of statues honoring women, especially historical women. Many statues feature women who are symbolic or allegorical (think: the Statue of Liberty) or generic (the Sullivan Gateway on East Colfax features two women representing agriculture), but it’s harder to find statues of particular women that honor and name both them and their achievements.

     That was all MaKenna needed to know in order to define her foundation’s new mission: “to fund, create, and place commemorative public art about the achievements of Colorado women.”

     Right now, it’s unclear how many monuments or public art pieces in the state honor women. Denver Arts & Venues keeps a list of Denver’s public art collection, but the list only includes statues owned by the City and County of Denver. According to Erica Duvic, preservation planner in the Office of Archaeology and Historic Preservation at History Colorado, her office doesn’t keep a comprehensive list of Colorado monuments because “there are simply too many entities that place monuments to keep track of them all.” A cursory survey of Smithsonian’s inventory of Denver’s outdoor sculptures found 31 pieces featuring people, seven of which included women, only one of whom was a specific woman—but the list is woefully incomplete.

     Because of this, a key part of MaKenna’s initiative is to form an inventory survey team to document what public artwork commemorating women already exists in Colorado.

     MaKenna is also looking for volunteers for placement and selection teams, to respectively identify locations to host the artwork and choose artists to create the pieces. The selection team will also play a role in selecting which women to honor. MaKenna plans to draw from the Colorado Women’s Hall of Fames list of 162 inductees, starting with more well-known names.

     An investment team will focus on fundraising for projects once they’ve been identified, and a membership team will work to grow the foundation’s membership and organize events to support the mission.

     “I want to imbue these pieces of artwork with information about these people,” MaKenna says. She wants anyone who happens upon a piece to be able to learn who the woman was and why she’s being honored, so they can walk away both educated and inspired. “There’s a hunger to know about women’s achievements,” she says. “I don’t know that people even recognize that they’re missing it.”

     Get involved: Visit Carrie MaKenna’s website to learn more, or contact her via email at or phone at 720-933-3813.

KUNC | Mar 28, 2019

Honoring Historic Colorado Women Through Public Art

By Stacy Nick

     If you've ever caught a performance at Denver's Ellie Caulkins Opera House, you may or may not have noticed the giant statue in the lobby.

Denver painter Carrie MaKenna stands in front of the piece dedicated to Maria Mosina, who danced with the Colorado Ballet for more than 20 years.

     KUNC's Stacy Nick talks with artist Carrie MaKenna about women in public art.

"John De Andrea makes sculptures that are very, very lifelike from the subjects that he works with and so it looks exactly like them down to fingerprints," MaKenna said.

The sculpture features Mosina gracefully perched high in the air, held up by her husband and dance partner Igor Vassine. It's just one of many pieces of public art that can be found in the Denver Center for the Performing Arts complex alone. But MaKenna said it's still a rarity.

     "There are a lot of pieces of public art that have women in them, but they aren't specific women," she said. "So they're either allegorical or they are representative of a genre of women. So there's a really great statue in front of the Colorado History Museum that's about Colorado teachers. But it's not a specific person."

     Upstairs on the third floor is another De Andrea sculpture, "Three Dancers." This piece, which features three female ballet dancers rehearsing, exemplifies what most public art depicting women is made up of, Makenna said. 

"Even though these are specific women, because John De Andrea actually does that — he casts pretty much from live people — this isn't considered one of the public art pieces that commemorate(s) specific women," she said.

That representation matters, MaKenna said. It's important to honor the impact women have had on the state and to educate people about their stories in a real and public way.

     So when MaKenna inherited the AZ Foundation from her parents, she decided to refocus the organization's mission from education to the commissioning and creation of public art works honoring specific Colorado women. Because it's unknown exactly how many pieces of art currently honor Colorado women, one of the first steps will be cataloguing a complete list of all the pieces already out there.

     MaKenna said she sees the new direction as a way to honor the strong women in her state, as well as in her own life."I'm a fourth-generation Colorado native and my great-grandmother came here to escape Ireland," she said.

When she came to Denver, MaKenna's great-grandmother ran several businesses in the historic Baker neighborhood including a grocery store and a mechanic's shop — a rarity for women at that time. "So she was kind of a force to be reckoned with back in those days and this just felt like the perfect direction to take this foundation," she said.

     MaKenna added that women won't just be the subjects of these works. "Being a woman artist, I'm very interested in choosing women artists as often as possible to create these pieces," she said.

     As for choosing which women to honor, MaKenna has found a deep well to draw from thanks to the Colorado Women's Hall of Fame, which already has more than 160 inductees.  "Colorado has a very strong history of very strong women," she said.

     Women like Helen Bonfils. Bonfils has already been the subject of many private works of art in her name. Across the DCPA complex, in the theatre that bears Bonfils' name, sits a striking portrait of the heiress with the Rocky Mountains in the backdrop. The painting is rumored to be haunted. "If you stare at it long enough, the clouds will move," said Suzanne Yoe, the DCPA's director of communications and cultural affairs.

     Bonfils was one of Denver's biggest philanthropists at the time — particularly for the arts. "Helen Bonfils actually created the theater over on Colfax, which is now the Tattered Cover," Yoe said. "It used to be the Bonfils Theatre, and it was actually opened in honor of her mother. She also founded the Bonfils Blood Bank."

     Another contender is former University of Colorado-Boulder basketball coach Ceal Barry. Barry retired from coaching in 2005 holding the record for coaching the most games, matches or tournaments of any sport in Colorado athletics history. With 427 wins, she also had the most victories of any CU-Boulder coach.

    "There's name recognition around the state, and also kind of an already understood implication of her importance to sport in Colorado," MaKenna said.

     Now all she needs is some art.

The AZ Foundation will meet at 1 p.m. March 30 at First United Church of Arvada.

Here are a few examples we've found of public art commemorating identifiable women in the US and Europe.

Harriett Tubman - NYC

-Washington DC

Gertrude Stein - Bryant Park, NYC

Eleanor Roosevelt - Washington DC

Anne Frank 1929-1942 - Amsterdam, Netherlands
Wilhelmina 1880-1962 - Amsterdam, Netherlands
We chose a flock of Canada Geese flying in formation accented by the circle of the Sun.
This holds a great deal of symbolism for us.

The Canada Goose is an outstanding example of shared leadership in action. They maintain an Egalitarian Community and demonstrate Shared Leadership in virtually all their behavior while sharing responsibility for each other and their community. 

We see the kinds of traits exhibited by Canada Geese in the many Women Leaders of Colorado,
who work through Egalitarian Ideals and Shared Leadership to achieve excellence in themselves, their teams and their communities.
And we work together to honor them.

Egalitarian and Shared Leadership Traits
of Canada Geese

- While many other birds exhibit significant differences between males and females, both genders of Canada Geese have the same coloring and similar size.

- Mates stay together for life, and goslings are cared for by both parents. Adult geese are sometimes violently protective of their goslings and the flock.

- When on the ground one or two geese keep their heads up to watch for trouble, alternating the guard throughout the flock. 

- The signature V-shaped flight pattern of Canada Geese allows the birds to "draft" off one another reducing friction and increasing their distance and efficiency.

- The experienced individuals of the flock take turns in the leadership position. When the lead goose tires it falls back to let another bird take the lead reducing fatigue of the entire flock and increasing their flight efficiency and distance.

- Canada Geese communicate during their flights by honking their encouragement to the leader who sets the pace and direction.

- When a bird is injured it's partner and often another goose will land and stay with it until it regains strength or dies. Then they will rejoin a flock.

The Circle as a Universal Symbol

In every part of the world and throughout time the Circle has been a symbol of relationship, completeness and universal order. In its most universal form is represents inclusiveness and encircles the four directions that symbolize movement through time and space.

Especially here in Colorado we have the opportunity to distinctly experience the four seasons - Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The circle also encompasses Time as it moves through first a minute, then an hour, a day, a month, a year, a decade, and a lifetime.

In our logo the circle represents the sun which, along with other elements creates life on earth. The Canada Geese follow the sun in their migration each year North to South and back North again.

We listen for the honking in the sky that signals a change of season.
Statue of Eleanor Roosevelt - Riverside Park, NYC

It’s Way Too Hard to Find Statues
of Notable Women in the U.S.

Only a handful of the country’s
honor women

By Danny Lewis  February 29, 2016


     When you walk the streets of cities like New York and Washington, D.C., it’s hard to miss the sculptures that mark the parks and neighborhoods. Historic figures often can be seen standing erect or sitting astride on their horses, stoically striking a poise. More often than not, these statues have another thing in common: their gender. The majority of public statues in the United States are of men.

      Of the estimated 5,193 public statues depicting historic figures on display on street corners and parks throughout the United States, only 394 of these monuments are of women, the Washington Post’s Cari Shane wrote in 2011. Compounding this number, none of the 44 memorials maintained by the National Parks Service, like the Lincoln Memorial or the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, specifically focus on women.

     A group called Where Are The Women? is looking to change this ratio. Recently, it successfully campaigned to have statues of women’s rights pioneers Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton installed in Central Park (which, notoriously, had no statues of non-fictional women on its grounds) and is now raising funds to build the suffragettes.

     The lack of women’s representation is problematic because leaving their narratives out from public art takes away from the significant roles that women have played in history. As Shane writes:

     U.S. history is not just the record of the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, as told through the stories of their ranking officers. But that’s largely what it looks like in Washington, D.C., where military equestrian statues occupy virtually every circle and square in the L’Enfant Plan. They’re inoffensive, but these public spaces are wasted on statues that over-tell one story to a people who have long grown oblivious to hearing it.

     Currently, few of the statues that do show women on city streets around the country are modeled on historic figues, Kriston Capps writes for CityLab. Instead, women often appear as archetypes, symbols of abstract concepts or as nameless figures in a memorial.

     While one campaign isn’t enough to solve persistent issues of gender discrimination and inequality in the U.S., by pressing to honor real women from history, cities around the country can restore them to a story that has ignored them for so long. After all, as it stands now, there remains only five public statues of historic women in New York City: Joan of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt and Harriet Tubman. 

     - Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

Inside the Push for More Public Statues of Notable Women

By Maya Rhodan  August 17, 2017, Time Magazine

     Kanishka Karunaratne jogs by Golden Gate Park regularly, but until recently she never paid much attention to its monuments.

      During a January event aimed at mobilizing young women to run for political office, Karunaratne heard an interesting factoid from former U.S. Treasurer Rosie Rios: The only women among Central Park’s statues are Alice in Wonderland, Shakespeare’s Juliet and Mother Goose.

    Karunaratne, a legislative aide for San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors, decided to look into the park near her home, and was shocked to find it fared even worse. The only female figure there is the “Pioneer Mother,” who symbolizes the matriarchs who moved west along the Oregon and California trails. And across the 87 statues in the entire city, only former Mayor and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Florence Nightingale are represented.

      “In San Francisco, where we think of ourselves as this inclusive, liberal bastion of a city, even we’re not doing well,” she says.

     Along with a colleague, Margaux Kelly, Karunaratne set out to change that. Supervisor Mark Farrell recently introduced a resolution they inspired that would affirm the city’s commitment to increasing female representation across the public sphere to 30% by 2020. If the legislation passes, the city would become the first in the U.S. to sign on to an international movement with the same 30% goal.

     The first project is an effort to erect a statue at the city’s main library of the late poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou, who has deep roots in San Francisco. The statue would cost about $500,000. The legislation would also create a fund for projects like the Angelou statue.

It’s a fraught moment for the politics of statues in America. After a protest over the impending removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned violent, leaving one counterprotester dead, many cities across the country are considering taking down similar Confederate memorials.

     But efforts like San Francisco’s are aimed at the other side of the debate, increasing representation of people who have been left out and breaking through what might be called the bronze ceiling.

     A recent search of female historical figures among the Smithsonian American Art Museum art inventories catalog turned up 555 outdoor sculptures, about 9% of the over 6,900 recorded works. Among the work listed are allegorical like “Self Denial” at the New Haven County Courthouse, “Inner Light” in Silver Spring, Md., and, of course, the Statue of Liberty. A grand total of nine national park sites are dedicated to women’s history—out of 411.

     Women make up just 20% of the U.S. Congress, 20% of mayors, 24% of statewide elected executive offices, and make up just 5% of the c suite. Joan Bradley Wages, the president and CEO of the National Women’s History Museum says that not sharing women’s historical contributions sends a message to young girls and young boys that women do not play a prominent role in shaping the U.S.

     “By having women missing, it sends the message to young girls and young boys that women did not play a prominent role in the building and the growing of our nation,” she says. “It’s as though women did not participate and they do not deserve the respect that men do who are portrayed across the country.”

     The lack of monuments representing women has been the focus of many for decades and progress has been incremental, to say the least. A nine-year push led to the dedication of the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington in 1993. As a result of a 2000 law that allowed states to replace their representative statues in the U.S. Capitol’s Statuary Hall, Alabama placed a statue of Helen Keller on display in 2009. In 2013, a statue of Civil Rights icon Rosa Parks was unveiled in a ceremony led by President Obama. But in some of the nation’s largest cities, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago—there are still just a few statues depicting real women.

     Like San Francisco, other cities are working to change that. In Washington, D.C., where most of the statues depicting women are mythical, like the “Future” statue at the National Archives (there are a few historical statues, including Mary McLeod Bethune in Northeast) Council-member Kenyan McDuffie introduced legislation in June to erect a statue of a woman and/or person of color in each of the city’s eight wards. In November of 2016, New York Life launched a $500,000 challenge grant—when people donate money, the company will match until they reach the goal—to get statue of suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony erected in Central Park.

“Central Park is visited by so many people and it’s such an iconic place in New York City,” says Heather Nesle, president of the New York Life Foundation. “To really see folks who were putting themselves on the line, doing all of this work, which was pretty radical at the time, can be inspiring to younger generations even to some of us who aren’t so young. To show that there are ways of effecting change that lead to really positive results.”

     Bradley Wages agreed, arguing that statues are important for the signal they send.

     “We are all impacted by who we see is recognized and honored by our nation. And this sends a message about who we are as a country,” she said. “And it sends a message about who we value as citizens of this country.”

     Changing the existing narrative around women in U.S. history become a focus of former Treasurer Rios, who led the effort to put a woman on the face of U.S. currency for the first time in a century. Since leaving Treasury, she’s made it her life’s mission to shift what she calls the U.S.’s consciousness, first, by educating people about gender disparities and then challenging them to do something about it.

     “We know that our daughters are capable of anything, right?” Rios said in a recent TedX talk. “But they need inspiration in order to have aspirations.”

     Through her Empowerment 2020 initiative, Rios is working to boost female representation in all areas of decision-making but also educate and inspire the next generation of leaders. Statues and portraits, of course, are hardly the only way we learn history, which is why Rios—who gave the speech on Central Park statues that inspired Karunaratne—launched the Teachers Righting History Project, which gets students and educators to include more stories of historical women in everyday learning. She’s also working with lawmakers and organizations like the National Women’s History Museum across the U.S. to recognize women in the public domain—via statues and otherwise. On Aug. 26, she’s co-hosting a conference with the city of San Francisco that will bring together educators, students, business and tech leaders to advance all of these efforts.

     “If we don’t do anything we’re literally affecting the future of half the population from early on,” Rios told TIME recently. The movement to increase women’s representation is about more than just erecting a few statues. It’s about sending a message to young boys and young girls that half of the population had a hand in shaping the nation’s history.

     “Our goal is not just statues,” says Karunaratne. “But also building names and park names and street names so that we start to get comfortable and familiar with women’s names as much as we are with men’s names and recognize that they are of equal importance.”

 Why the dearth of statues honoring women
in Statuary Hall and elsewhere?

By Cari Shane  April 15, 2011, Washington Post

     When the 2011 Maryland General Assembly session ended Monday, left unfinished was the effort of some residents to honor a famed abolitionist in a space held by a long-forgotten Revolutionary War figure. The failure of the campaign to replace a sculpture of John Hanson in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall with one of Harriet Tubman especially irked some women’s advocates. “I am pretty disgusted,” says Linda Mahoney, president of the Maryland Chapter of the National Organization for Women. “Women continue to be put in the margins or in the footnotes. Yet there is just so much documentation about what Harriet Tubman did. This is separate and unequal treatment.”

     But even those advocating for Tubman might not have realized how rare it is to establish a statue commemorating a female figure. Of the 5,193 public outdoor sculptures of individuals in the United States, only 394, or less than 8 percent, are of women, compared with 4,799 of men, according to the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Art Inventories Catalog, considered the most up-to-date catalogue of such works. And none of the 44 national memorials managed by the National Park Service (such as the Lincoln Memorial) specifically focuses on women and their accomplishments, writes art historian Erika Doss in her book “Memorial Mania.”

     The lack of female monuments and statuary “sends a very clear nonverbal message . . . about the relative stature of boys and girls and men and women. It expands the broader message that the contributions of women don’t matter,” says Lynette Long, a Washington area psychologist and founder of EVE (Equal Visibility Everywhere), a year-old nonprofit group that advocates for gender parity among the nation’s signs, symbols, monuments, currencies and even parade balloons.

     Long says the nonverbal signal sent by the dominance of male statuary trumps any verbal communication girls receive about being equal to boys. “Humans tend to trust the nonverbal, and the statues send a very clear nonverbal message. Girls can’t be what they can’t see,” she says.

First was in 1884

     The first U.S. statue of a celebrated woman was not erected until 1884 in New Orleans, according to the Smithsonian records; it depicts Margaret Haughery, who devoted her life to the care and feeding of the poor. The fact that commemoration of women has not kept pace with that of men is not surprising, art historians say, given our history and the reasons Americans tend to build memorials.

     Americans “worry about saying thank you to our heroes,” says Erika Doss, a professor of American studies at Notre Dame University. “We want to pay due respect, and we want to preserve the memory because we worry about forgetting. We want to have closure.”

     And, historically speaking, our heroes are political and military figures who fought in wars. “We have a male-centered history, so we have more male statues,” Doss says.

     Art historian Ellen Wiley Todd of George Mason University agrees. Between 1860 and 1959, an era that saw a large uptick in commemorative memorials, “people were putting up statues and memorials . . . to events and people who were considered to be history makers, and those were men.”

     During this time, statues of 170 women were erected, although art historians point out that this celebration is largely generic, similar to the Greek- and Roman-era statues that honor the female form with anonymous figures. Allegorical or mythical female statues of that era abound in Washington, including “Freedom” atop the Capitol dome (1863), “North America” and “South America” at the Organization of American States building (1910) and a nymph in the Joseph Darlington fountain (City University of New York) at Fifth and D streets NW (1923).

Replacement allowed

     As women’s numbers increased in potentially history-making arenas such as politics and the military, however, their marble and bronze representations did not reflect that change. Between 1960 and today, the Smithsonian records show, 184 public statues of individual women were installed in the United States, and 1,440 male statues were erected during the same period.

     Michele H. Bogart, an American visual culture studies professor at Stony Brook University, calls the number “surprising.” But, she adds, “by looking at what was produced each decade, we can see a moment where there was a change, where there were more women in statuary.” After 1991, she says, there was a jump in the installation of statues representing women, such as a 1996 New York City monument to Eleanor Roosevelt and a 2003 memorial in Boston honoring Abigail Adams, Lucy Stone and Phillis Wheatley.

     Another monument to women established during that period was the Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, dedicated in 1993 after a nine-year effort to bring it to fruition. But it didn’t happen easily, according to its founder.

     “It was incredible how hard we had to work not only to get a sculpture, but one that looked like women,” says Diane Evans, who had been an Army first lieutenant and head nurse in Vietnam and spearheaded the initiative. “We were told by J. Carter Brown, the head of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., that a woman’s statue would upset the delicate balance of tension at the Vietnam Memorial.”

     Change has also been slow to come to the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall, which some historians consider a microcosm of the U.S. statuary landscape. Designated by Congress in 1864, it showcases statues of two distinguished individuals from each state, chosen by the legislatures. Before 2000, only six of the 100 statues were female.

     In 2000, Congress voted to allow states to replace one or both of their statues. According to Alan Hantman, who was the architect of the Capitol from 1997 to 2007, the law was spurred by “a change in the philosophies of individual states” wanting to remove statues of “forgotten legislators and battle heroes.”

     Although not aimed at women, the new law opens the door for more women in Statuary Hall, he says. “Personally, it’s long overdue. There are very powerful people who have impacted the history of our nation, the history of states, who have been women. They haven’t gotten the recognition before, and I am personally pleased that each individual state is reevaluating who represents them in the Statuary Hall collection.”

     Only one of 11 states that has replaced a statue, Alabama, has voted to replace a renowned man with a renowned woman. (Alabama removed a statue of Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, a member of Congress in the mid-1800s and advocate for universal free education, and installed one of Helen Keller in 2009.) Two other states have installed female statues since 2000, although neither statue replaced an existing statue. In 2003, North Dakota installed Sacagawea, and, two years later, Nevada erected a statue of Sarah Winnemucca. In Kansas, a campaign to replace Sen. John James Ingalls with Amelia Earhart has stalled.

     Iowa may be an exception to the trend. Last month, the legislature’s vote to replace the statue of Sen. James Harlan with one of agronomist Norman Borlaug, a Nobel Prize winner for advances in fighting famine, was met immediately with the suggestion to replace Iowa’s other figure, Gov. Samuel Jordan Kirkwood, with a woman. “Our male colleagues are saying yeah, you are right,” says Democratic state Rep. Mary Mascher. “They have daughters and mothers and wives and sisters, and they certainly are cognizant and aware of the fact that we don’t have a woman statue there and it is something that has been long overdue.”

     Maryland Del. Susan C. Lee (D-Montgomery), who was one of the leaders of the effort to honor Tubman, knew there was a big disparity in the number of male and female statues when she took on the cause. But she says she believes Tubman’s importance transcends issues of gender. Tubman, Lee says, was “an American hero. She’s almost an overqualified individual to be in Statuary Hall.”


Behind the trends

     Why the difficulty commemorating women in this day and age? Part of the problem is the lack of visibility itself, says Harriet Senie, director of museum studies and professor of art history at City College of New York: “We are not used to seeing physical female figures commemorated in public memorials. I think until it becomes as familiar to honor women as it is to honor men, the numbers will continue” to skew male.

     “Public monuments tend to be conservative and to lag behind social trends,” says Kirk Savage, an art history professor at the University of Pittsburgh and author of “Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape.”

     Because public monuments are the domain of the heroic, a traditionally male sphere, Savage adds, it has taken decades for artists to figure out “how to represent female achievement in this traditionally male art form. That’s why statuary females are put in traditionally male poses or created in traditional female roles such as the nurses in the Vietnam Women’s Memorial, nurturing, caring for the wounded.”

     “Sculpture is a medium of tradition based on heroic events,” George Mason’s Todd agrees. “Who are our heroes? Firefighters, police officers, soldiers — people on the front lines who are conceived of as male. They may not all be men, but it is a masculine conception.”

     And it is getting harder to recognize anyone at all, male or female. Since 2001, only 50 public statues, male and female, have been installed in the United States. “The very mechanism for approval has gotten more complicated because cities are monumented out,” Bogart says.

     Finally, for whatever reason, women may not have been their own best advocates for public recognition. “Obviously, women have done plenty in American society, including commissioning memorials to the guys,” Doss says. But “when it comes to their own histories or their own monuments, not so much. Are women just . . . being deferential to a male-dominated history? It seems that women have a lot more work to be doing in order to raise public consciousness about women in the course of American history.”

     Some experts suggest that instead of focusing on erecting celebratory statues of themselves, women chose to focus on effecting legislative change. “They were drawn away by causes, living memories, breast cancer research, fundraising efforts. The non-physical memorial may have become the more important subject women are focusing on,” says Todd, whose most recent research has focused on the New York Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, which erupted in 100 years ago last month. According to Todd, union members and activists (mostly women) decided not to build an actual memorial to the 146 mostly female garment workers who died, but to keep their memory alive by fighting to improve working conditions.

     Alexander Sanger, grandson of Margaret Sanger, who founded the birth control movement more than 80 years ago, agrees with this “diversion theory,” suggesting it is the prime reason that an effort to erect a Sanger statue died out.

     “We are asking our donors for so much right now [to help fund important programs], and they are responding. Perhaps women’s statues will be like women doctors or lawyers: It takes 30 years after they get admitted to law or medical school for the employment numbers to even out. So perhaps it will take a generation or two after the Second Wave of Feminism for the statues to even out.”

     Lee, for one, is not being diverted. “I am not worn down by this, I am fired up. I know now what we need to do, and I am committed to bringing the bill next year,” she says. “We are going to go back and regroup, and we are going to produce a really good bill so we can have Harriet Tubman in Statuary Hall.”