RICHMOND -- The nation’s first monument created to showcase remarkable women of Virginia now stands on Capitol Square. 

Hundreds watched the unveiling Monday of “The Virginia Women’s Monument,” which features seven statues honoring women from different parts of the commonwealth.

Mary Margaret Whipple, vice chair of the Women’s Monument Commission, said the monument embodies the goals of the commission to honor real women in a way that is not mythic or symbolic. The Virginia General Assembly established the commission to determine and recommend an appropriate women’s monument for Capitol Square in 2010. 

“These women rose to the occasion and made significant achievements,” Whipple said. “They were from all walks of life. From different times and places. They were famous and obscure. Real women. Even imperfect women. Who have shaped the history of this commonwealth.” 

Women's Monument -- Mary Draper Ingles

Mary Draper Ingles, the daughter of Scotch-Irish immigrants, moved from Philadelphia to what is now the site of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, where her family and others established a small farming settlement. She and her two sons were taken captive by Shawnee warriors during the French and Indian War and marched to Ohio, where Ingles was given into servitude. She and another captive planned and made their escape into the wilderness, facing an oncoming winter with no supplies or equipment. Ingles reunited with her husband 500 miles and 40 days later. Her statue depicts her difficult journey and facing hardship to return home.

Clerk of the Senate Susan Clarke Schaar spoke about the decade-long process for the design and realization of the monument. She worked with professors and historians to design the structure. 

“No pedestals, no weapons, no horses,” Schaar said. “They wanted it to be approachable. They wanted it to be warm and welcoming. And they wanted to convey a sense of consensus building. And they wanted young women and young men to know that they could do anything they wanted to do with their lives.”

Women's monument Adele Clark

Adèle Clark was a champion for women and the arts. She participated in and led numerous artistic and social justice organizations. She co-founded the Atelier, a training ground for a generation of Virginian artists, helped establish the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia and chaired the Virginia League of Women Voters. She was also instrumental in establishing Virginia’s Art Commission. Clark combined her love and talent with her activism for social change, demonstrated in her monument by her holding a “Votes for Women” banner.

Gov. Ralph Northam said the monument is long overdue. 

“For far too long we have overlooked the transformative contributions of women and other underrepresented groups,” said Northam. “Until recently that has been the case on Capitol Square as well.”

Women's monument -Ann Burras Laydon

Ann Burras Laydon was a Jamestown colonist, and her statue represents the women who sailed to Virginia and survived the starving time of 1609-1610 to establish a thriving colony. It is believed that she and the women for whom she was a maidservant were among the earliest colonists to arrive in Jamestown. Laydon’s wedding was also the first Christian wedding recorded in the colonies. Her statue depicts her carrying a bundle of her belongings.

Capitol Square is also home to the Virginia Civil Rights Memorial, opened in 2008, and “Mantle,” a monument dedicated to Virginia’s Indian tribes in 2018. 

Artist Kehinde Wiley last month in Times Square unveiled “Rumors of War,” a statue of a young African American man on a horse in a pose modeled after Confederate monuments. The statue will be permanently moved to the entrance of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts on Arthur Ashe Boulevard in December.

Women's monument - Cockacoeske

Pamunkey chieftain Cockacoeske is the only Native American woman featured in the monument. During her time as a leader, Cockacoeske strategized with her people against attacks from Bacon’s Rebellion, provided warriors as a defense to Jamestown, appealed to the General Assembly for release of Pamunkey prisoners and restoration of property and signed the Treaty of Middle Plantation to reunite several tribes under her authority. However, some of those tribes refused to become subservient or pay tribute to her. She is depicted in her statue holding a bronze signed treaty.

This year, 2019, is the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in America. It also marks the 400th anniversary of the first slaves arriving in Virginia. 

State Sen. Ryan McDougle, a Republican running for reelection in the 4th District, brought his daughter Reagan on stage with him. He said the monument was about inspiring the accomplishments of women yet to come. 

Women's monument - Elizabeth Keckly

Elizabeth Keckly was born enslaved and worked hard to gain her freedom with the help of her patrons. She worked as a seamstress, gaining several prominent clients in Washington, D.C., before becoming Mary Todd Lincoln’s personal dressmaker and confidante. 

“It’s about Reagan, and all the girls here today, and all the girls that will come; whether they have those role models in their families or not, they will be able to see that women that have come before them have achieved tremendous things,” McDougle said.

Women's Monument -- Virginia Randolph

Virginia Randolph was a Richmond-native educator who attended Richmond Colored Normal School (now Armstrong High) and taught in Goochland, Hanover and Henrico counties. She believed in learning through doing, and developed an education formula based on practicality, creativity, and parental involvement. She also combined academic work with lessons on cooking, weaving and gardening. She worked throughout the South and earned a national and international reputation as an education leader. Her statue holds a book and looks out across the Capitol lawn.

When the monument is completed it will feature a dozen bronze statues on a granite plaza and an etched glass Wall of Honor  inscribed with 230 names of notable Virginian women and room for more. For a future honoree to qualify for the wall, she must be a native Virginian or have lived mostly in Virginia and must be deceased for at least 10 years.

Women's monument -- Laura Copenhaver

Laura Copenhaver’s statue holds a textile and sits on a granite wall next to a bronze booklet. She was the entrepreneur of Rosemont Industries, an advocate for developing the region’s agricultural economy and a Lutheran lay leader. Rosemont Industries provided women with profitable employment in the textile industry.

The granite wall features a quote excerpted from a 1912 address that Mary Johnston, a 20th century Virginian author, made to an all-male Richmond conference of state governors:

“It did not come up in a night, the Woman Movement, and it is in no danger of perishing from view. It is here to stay and grow … It is indestructible, it is moving on with an ever- increasing depth and velocity, and it is going to revolutionize the world.”

The seven completed statues are Anne Burras Laydon, a Jamestown colonist; Cockacoeske, Pamunkey chieftain; Mary Draper Ingles, a frontierswoman; Elizabeth Keckly, seamstress and confidante to Mary Todd Lincoln; Laura Copenhaver, an entrepreneur in the textile industry; Virginia Randolph, an educator; and Adèle Clark, suffragist and artist. 

Five more statues will be added as they are funded and completed — Martha Dandridge Custis Washington, America’s inaugural first lady; Clementina Bird Rind, the first female printer in Virginia; Sally Louisa Tompkins, a hospital administrator; Maggie L. Walker, a civil rights leader and entrepreneur; and Sarah G. Boyd Jones, teacher and physician. 

The statues, which each required a $200,000 investment, were sculpted by New York-based Ivan Schwartz, who also crafted the Capitol’s Thomas Jefferson statue.

Schwartz spoke about the lack of statues to, for, or about women. According to the Washington Post, of the estimated 5,193 public statues depicting historic figures on display on street corners and parks throughout the United States, 394 are of women. 

“Women have been excised from the marble pedestal of history,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz has recently worked on other sculptures of notable women around the country. He mentioned projects highlighting Susan B. Anthony, Anne Frank and Harriet Tubman.

“I still make sculptures of Abraham Lincoln and George Washington,” Schwartz said. “I don’t turn my back on these good gentlemen. But their gentlemen’s club, which has occupied our national living room, our nation’s public spaces, has at last started to admit women, African Americans and Native Americans.”

Girl Scouts unveiled the structures, pulling back a blue cloth as the name of each statue was announced by Susan Allen, chair of the Virginia Capitol Foundation and former first lady of Virginia. The Girl Scouts represented councils from the Commonwealth of Virginia, Virginia Skyline and the Colonial Coast. 

Allen gave closing remarks, calling the occasion “a monumental day.”

“Let us recognize our diverse past, and those on whose shoulders we stand so proudly today and be inspired to work on for a better future for our daughters and the young leaders of tomorrow like these lovely young women here today,” Allen said.

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