You can't pass a park without seeing a statue of some old codger on a horse. It must be his bravery; you can tell it isn't his horsemanship. Women are twice as brave as men, yet they never seem to have reached the statue stage.
Washington is full of statues of men -- "old codgers" or otherwise. But a surprising number of women have reached the "statue stage" in our capital.
This weekend marks the beginning of National Women's History Week (Sunday through March 12), an appropriate time to explore Washington and the surrounding area for sculptures and exhibits by and about women. U.S. CAPITOL -- The Capitol is a good place to begin. In the first-floor crypt stands the SUFFRAGE MONUMENT, honoring the three gaints of the 19th century women's movement: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott. If you ask for directions to the Suffrage Monument, you may get a puzzled look. The eight-ton monument, sculpted by Adelaide Johnson, unfortunately is also known as the "Ladies in the Bathtub." The Nationl Women's Party, the once-militant arm of the early 20th-century women's movement, donated the monument in 1921. A wall plaque refers to the sculpture as the "Suffragette Monument" -- an inappropriate reference, since that term was a trivializing name for suffrage workers in the United States, who actually called themselves "suffragists." Only the English militants accepted the term "suffragettes" for themselves.
Only a few statues of women stand for their states in Statuary Hall. Wyoming, the "Equality State," is represented by ESTHER MORRIS. Who helped Wyoming women become the nation's first to win formal voting rights in 1869. Morris, who stood over six feet tall, also became the first female justice of the peace. Her statue is in the vestibule. FLORENCE SABIN, acclaimed pioneer scientific researcher and a public-health reformer, represents her state of Colorado. The Sabin statue stands in a dark corner of the grand gallery.
Additional statues of women and their states are: FRANCES WILLARD, famed feminist and leader of the Women's Christian Temperance Union, Illinois (also in the grand gallery); MARIA SANFORD, educator, orator and civic leader, Minnesota (north corridor); and MOTHER JOSEPH, pioneer builder, carpenter and architect, Washington State (south wing).
Female sculptors, including Elisabet Ney and Anne Whitney, executed a number of statues in the Capitol. The most prominent sculpture is that of ABRAHAM LINCOLN at the west entrance of the Rotunda. Vinnie Ream was a teenager when she received a Congressional commission -- the first ever given to a woman -- to sculpt Lincoln. There was a public outcry, protesting the "indecency" of commissioning a major sculpture to a female -- and a teenager at that.But she went on to produce several more sculptures in Washington, including the monument to ADMIRAL DAVID FARRAGUT in Farragut Square on Connecticut Avenue. OUTDOOR SCULPTURE & MONUMENTS -- The MARY McLEOD BETHUNE MEMORIAL stands 17 feet tall in Lincoln Park at 13th and East Capitol streets.Statues of two young children look up to the revered black educator and leader. The monument inscription reads: "I leave you love. I leave you hope... I leave you racial dignity."
In Constitution Gardens, the recently dedicated VIETNAM MEMORIAL, still a subject of controversy, was designed by 22-year-old Maya Ying Lin, whose name was not mentioned at the memorial dedication ceremonies.
In Arlington National Cemetery, section three, a bronze figure of the muse SAPPHO, a copy of an original by Vinnie Ream, memorializes the trailblazing sculptor and her husband. Vinnie Ream Hoxie's own name is lost on the inscription, which honors Brigadier General and Mrs. Richard Loveridge Hoxie.
Also in Arlington Cemetery, section 21, a statue of Red Cross Nursing director JANE DELANO overlooks the nurses' section of the cemetery.
Other statues and memorials in the Washington area include: QUEEN ISABELLA -- 15th-century ruler of Spain, Pan American Building, Constitution Avenue and 17th street NW. The bronze life-size statue was a gift of the Institute of Hispanic Culture of Madrid. JOAN OF ARC -- Meridian Hill Park, 16th Street and Florida Avenue NW. The nine-foot-high statue of the "Maid of Orleans," a replica of the original statue at Rheims Cathedral in France, was a gift to the women of the United States from the women of France. THE FEMALE STRANGER GRAVE -- St. Paul's Cemetery, Alexandria. No one knows the certain identity of the young stranger buried here in 1816 following a brief, fatal illness. Her husband inscribed his sorrow on the table-shaped, marble monument: "How loved, how valued once avails thee not..." One intriguing theory of the stranger's identity holds that she was Aaron Burr's daughter, who had married against her father's will. OCCOQUAN WORKHOUSE MARKER -- Lorton Prison, Virginia. The marker, erected in 1982 by citizens in Fairfax County, commemorates the imprisonment and force-feeding of suffragists during the 1917 campaign. The marker reads, in part: "Their courage and dedication during harsh treatment aroused the nation to hasten the passage and ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920." The struggle for woman's suffrage took 72 years.
The alert sightseer in Washington and the surrounding area can spot many more reminders of women's heritage. But one more monument deserves the attention of the serious history-seeker: That's the 12-foot marble figure of a pensive woman at the entrance to the National Archives Building at Eighth and Pennsylvania NW.
The inscription on the base of the statue reads, "What Is Past Is Prologue."