Over the past several years, I’ve written many posts about a phenomenon slowly and steadily sweeping our nation and the world. This phenomenon is often referred to as the breaking of the bronze ceiling. This movement is working to increase the number of women depicted in statues and monuments in our public spaces. The bronze ceiling is similar to the glass ceiling in that it is a barrier, a barrier to the representation and visibility of women.

Here are some of the NWW posts that describe efforts to establish more of a gender balance among statues in our public spaces:

Breaking the Bronze Ceiling: One Inspiring Public Sculpture at a Time

Visibility Matters: A Statue for Mary Wollstonecraft

Sonia Sotomayor: “A Trailblazing Bronx Native” Honored in Bronze 

Virginia Woolf: A Bench of Her Own With Room for You

Shattering Ceilings

Girls watching and listening to Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris’s inspiring address on November 7, 2020.

With the last presidential election, Vice President Kamala Harris further shattered the glass ceiling in a very significant way, being the first woman AND woman of color (Black and South Asian American) to hold this office in the history of the United States.

The bronze ceiling continues to crack too. One organization doing a lot to make this happen is Statues for Equality, founded by artists and social justice activists Marc and Gillie Schattner.

Artists and activists, Marc and Gillie Schattner. Founders of Statues for Equality.

Statues for Equality is a

“movement for gender and racial equality through public art,” working to “reach their aim of 50% representation of women in public statues around the world by 2025.”

Visibility and representation matter. Statues of real women in public spaces shout that it can be done, it has been done, and these are the women who have done it.

As it says on the Statues for Equality site:

“Sculptures inspire. They illustrate history, and they express stories of achievement that motivate generations.”

The Power of Inspiration 

During Women’s History Month three years ago, Marc and Gillie’s bronze statue of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was unveiled at City Point in downtown Brooklyn, NY, where she grew up. This event took place on March 15, 2021, which would have been Justice Ginsburg’s 88th birthday.

A very dear friend of mine, also born on March 15 almost sixty years after Justice Ginsburg, attended the original unveiling of the RBG statue in Brooklyn in 2021. This woman, greatly inspired by RBG, is graduating from law school next month with the goal of working in public policy to help pass legislation that will enshrine gay rights and women’s rights. Thank you, Justice Ginsburg for the inspiration, and thank you, soon-to-be-lawyer friend, for the good and important work I know you’ll do.

‘Notorious RBG’, a title she came to embrace, helped to crack the glass ceiling with her long, powerful career as a judge in our nation’s highest court and as a tireless advocate for gender equality and women’s rights.

Now, posthumously, Justice Ginsburg’s legacy continues to inspire and to contribute to the crack being made in the stubborn bronze ceiling.

Statue of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Albee Square, Brooklyn.

According to ABC News, sculptors Marc and Gillie explain:

“With the two steps on its large base representing the Supreme Court and the climb she made to get there, the work is designed to provide the public with an opportunity to stand at her side, and gain inspiration from her journey fighting for equal rights”(Shapiro).

Justice Ginsburg, in the preface to her book My Own Words wrote:

“As expressed by my brave colleague, the first woman on the Supreme Court of the United States, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor:

For both men and women, the first step in getting power is to become visible to others, and then to put on an impressive show…As women achieve power, the barriers will fall. As society sees what women can do, as women see what women can do, there will be more women out there doing things, and we’ll all be better off for it”(xxi).

The Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital

In May 2023, this iconic statue was relocated from City Point to the lobby of the new Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital on the Coney Island peninsular in Brooklyn. The 11-story Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital is NYC’s first public hospital constructed in 40 years. It was built to replace the original, badly damaged by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.

“The new Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital will allow us to continue serving the people of South Brooklyn no matter what Mother Nature brings our way.”

The emergency department, twice its original size, is located on the second floor to protect it from flooding and the infrastructure is on the fifth floor for operational safety.

Designed by Gillie and Marc Schattner and donated to the hospital by City Point, the sculpture is 7 feet 2 inches high and weighs 650 pounds.

Hospital CEO, Svetlana Lipvanskava, had this to share, reflective of Justice  Ginsburg’s focus on inclusivity:

“This image which will grace the lobby of our new hospital building will serve as a reminder of our fundamental process to serve all people regardless of their ability to pay or their immigration status”(Greenberg).

RBG, recognized as a “champion for the equality of all people” would be pleased with the mission and durability of the new hospital named in her honor.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in Public Art

When exploring and reading about the relocation of the bronze statue of Ginsburg, I stumbled upon this stunning mural “celebrating her [Ginburg’s] life achievements” located in the East Village of NYC.

Mural by street artist Elle, supported by the public art charity LISA Project NYC.

I would love to take in such an image on a regular basis. Again, we cannot underestimate the power of being consistently reminded and inspired as we go about our precious lives.

Of course, Ruth Bader Ginsburg deserves every iota of honor and recognition she receives and it’s clear we need her more now than ever.

But there are thousands of women deserving of a sculpture in their likeness and honor. It takes many, many to achieve the progress that has been made and many, many to do the work that needs to be done, and unfortunately redone.

Women need one another to make this happen, just as Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg looked to others, one being our recently departed first Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, for courage and inspiration.

The goal is that one day there will be no glass, no bronze, no ceiling blockades of any kind designed to hold anyone back.

As Justice O’Connor said, “We’ll ALL be better off for it.”

© Maria Dintino 2024

Works Cited

“An Historic Day for South Brooklyn: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital Opens for Care Welcomes First Patients, Opens New Emergency Department.” NYC Health + Hospitals, May 7, 2023.  https://www.nychealthandhospitals.org/pressrelease/an-historic-day-for-south-brooklyn-ruth-bader-ginsburg-hospital-opens-for-care-welcomes-first-patients-opens-new-emergency-department/

Ginsburg, Ruth Bader. My Own Words. New York: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2016.

Kliger, Hannah. “CBS2 gets look at new Ruth Bader Ginsburg Hospital in Coney Island.” CBS News, Jan 26, 2023.  https://www.cbsnews.com/newyork/news/previewing-the-new-ruth-bader-ginsburg-hospital-in-brooklyn/

Shapiro, Emily. ABC News. 14 Oct 2020. https://abcnews.go.com/US/bronze-statue-ruth-bader-ginsburg-unveiled-brooklyn-womens/story?id=73606366

Sutter, Collier. “A giant Ruth Bader Ginsburg mural is going up in the East Village. Timeout, Nov 23, 2020. https://www.timeout.com/newyork/news/a-giant-ruth-bader-ginsburg-mural-is-going-up-in-the-east-village-112320