Books, in any and all formats, are human evolution’s most valuable resource. Books invite us into the minds of people, from those who lived thousands of years ago to those who live among us today. Books both reflect and shape our world and if consumed as the invaluable resource they are, guide us.
But that is something you already know. Here’s something you may not…
Being very fond of Margaret Fuller, every now and then I browse the Margaret Fuller Society website. Recently, this led me to their Facebook page which yielded a surprising discovery.
On August 26 of this year, the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument was unveiled in Central Park to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Here’s our post about this unveiling: Breaking the Bronze Ceiling: One Inspiring Public Sculpture at a Time!
Statues of women are cropping up around the country and slowly the bronze ceiling is beginning to crack. The Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument is the first statue in Central Park depicting real women, incredible women on whose shoulders we stand as we continue our march for women’s rights, for human rights.
And these women cast in bronze, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, stand on the shoulders of the women who came before them. Looking closely at the sculpture, we see evidence of this.
On the Margaret Fuller Society Facebook page, it pointed out that leaning on one of the chairs of this fourteen-foot statue are some bronze books, one of which was written by Fuller.
These books are “symbols of the herculean push for social change,” notes Alisha Haridasani Gupta in her New York Times article, “For Three Suffragists, a Monument Well Past Due.”
Three of these books are by women we have previously highlighted on our Nasty Women Writers site, women who advocated for the rights of women before there was a movement, before the word feminist was used to depict someone advocating for the rights of women.
Let’s go chronologically, as the books are arranged on the sculpture.
The first is a book by Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-97), an English woman known as the “mother of feminism.” Her herculean push is A Vindication of the Rights of Women, published in 1792, which established
“her case for equal rights for women, based on their equal power of reason. In it, she proposed that girls and boys be educated together at state expense, and that women should have representation in Parliament. This was 100 years before the suffragettes” (https://www.maryonthegreen.org/about.shtml).
Read our post Mary Wollstonecraft: A Wild Wish, to learn more about Wollstonecraft and this book, along with Visibility Matters: A Statue for Mary Wollstonecraft, about the statue going up in a London park to honor her and the resilience and power of women.
The next bronze book leaning on Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s chair is one by Sarah Grimke (1792-1873), Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, published in 1838.
Sarah Grimke, abolitionist and women’s rights advocate, penned this series of letters in response to the rebuke she and her sister, Angelina received for stepping out of the women’s sphere to deliver fervent speeches about the urgent need to end slavery. These letters gathered into this volume comprise
“the first women’s rights tract in the U.S., Letters on the Equality of the Sexes, and the Condition of Woman, which profoundly influenced first-wave feminists, including Mott, Stanton, and Stone. The Grimke sisters paid a heavy price for their uncompromising activism. Their abolitionist and feminist positions constituted the radical end of the ideological spectrum and alienated not only the usual suspects but many inside the movements”(Brooklyn Museum).
Check out our post Sarah Grimke: Women Must Acquire Feminist Consciousness by Conscious Effort, along with our post about her sister, Angelina Grimke: Digging Up the Weed of Racism by the Roots Out of Each of Our Hearts.
The next bronze book is Margaret Fuller’s (1810-1850) Woman in the Nineteenth Century published in 1845 and “considered the first major work for feminism in the United States.”
Woman in the Nineteenth Century
“takes up the central issues of women’s economic, political, intellectual, and sexual status in society…most of the attitudes and assumptions that she exposed are still in operation over a century later. Women in the Nineteenth Century is not only an historical document, affording a revealing view of an important figure in the American Renaissance, but a manifesto for human rights today”(back cover).
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton comment in their 1881 History of Woman Suffrage that Fuller “possessed more influence on the thought of American women than any other woman previous to her time”( https://uudb.org/articles/margaretfuller.html).
Read more about Fuller and her groundbreaking work in our post Margaret Fuller’s Manifesto.
It’s heartening to see Mary Wollstonecraft, Sarah Grimke, and Margaret Fuller’s trailblazing books on women’s rights included on the statue honoring these pioneering suffragists.
This is a visible reminder that no matter the work in our hands today, we are building on the ideas, visions, and tireless efforts of those before.
We honor all of these #Nasty Women Readers and Writers.
Brooklyn Museum. Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. https://www.brooklynmuseum.org/eascfa/dinner_party/heritage_floor/sarah_grimke
Fuller, Margaret. Women in the Nineteenth Century. NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1971.
Gupta, Alisha Haridasani. “For Three Suffragists, a Monument Well Past Due.” The New York Times, 6 August 2020.
Mary on the Green. maryonthegreen.org