By Maria Rocha-Buschel
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and nonprofit organization Monumental Women honored Susan B. Anthony and her contribution to women’s rights on the occasion of her 200th birthday last week in Madison Square Park.
Although the celebration was held last Friday on Valentine’s Day, Anthony was actually born on February 15, 1820. Brewer issued a proclamation declaring the day of her birth “Susan B. Anthony Day” and those in attendance to celebrate the suffragette also celebrated a new statue that will debut in Central Park later this year, honoring Anthony as well as suffragists and abolitionists Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
“As we all know, it’ll be the first statue of women in Central Park,” Brewer said. “Alice in Wonderland does not count. We are approaching the centennial ratification of the 19th amendment and women’s suffrage, and taking this stand for equality makes for a perfect preview for the legacy of Susan B. Anthony. And it’s very fitting that on the anniversary this year in August, Monumental Women will launch their women’s history campaign with a challenge to municipalities around the United States helping communities explore what they can do to honor all the women that make up our constituents.”
Pam Elam, president of Monumental Women, said that the area around Madison Square Park has a special significance for Susan B. Anthony and women’s suffrage, since Anthony once lived on East 23rd Street near Park Avenue South and the National Women’s Suffrage Association, founded by Anthony, was located on East 23rd Street near Madison Avenue.
“Everywhere you look, you find history,” Elam said. “And the fact is that women were there, women were active, women fought and fought and fought. The purpose of our monument is not only to create a beautiful work of art but also to challenge the rest of us to complete those journeys for justice, of all the women who came before us and to keep fighting until full equality for women is a reality for all women.”
Councilmember Carlina Rivera, who represents the neighborhood, noted that there are currently only 12 Councilmembers out of 51 who are women and despite advances, there are still steps necessary for full equality.
“Susan B. Anthony is one of our heroes and I remember the first time I held her coin in my hand,” she said. “I really wanted to spend them but I kept every single one because I just felt powerful, knowing that we had somehow memorialized someone who was truly a trailblazer. This monument is so, so important because it also has a woman of color at the table, and honors that 19th amendment that brought us so many freedoms and so many privileges. It’s really opening the door to make sure that women of color also had a voice at the table.”
Elam also reiterated that progress has been made but changes are still necessary.
“As Susan B. Anthony once said, cautious, careful people cannot achieve reform,” Elam said. “So, taking her advice, I would say let’s not be cautious careful people let’s go for it. Let’s restore democracy in this country and let’s make full equality for women a reality in our lifetimes. Let’s reimagine our public spaces to include the diversity of everybody who made this city is great.”