Capitol Statue Honoring Feminists Omits Black Women

By Clarence Page Copyright Chicago Tribune | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 2, 1997 | Go to article overview

Capitol Statue Honoring Feminists Omits Black Women


Clarence Page Copyright Chicago Tribune, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


One of the biggest battles on Capitol Hill these days is in the Capitol's basement. It's in a spot indelicately called the Crypt. It is a 13-ton statue of three female suffragists, Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

Although the Capitol has many sculpted men, this is its only statue of women. Where are the men? Oh, you can find them beautifully illuminated up in the Capitol's magnificent Rotunda, lovingly admired by tourists. To see the women, you have to look in the basement.

Ever since the statue was installed in 1921, shortly after American women received the right to vote, advocates have wanted the women's suffrage statue moved to the Rotunda. Victory appeared finally to be at hand on Sept. 27, when Congress approved the move at a cost of $82,000. It only took a four-year campaign by a coalition of 78 women's groups to do it. But the move, scheduled for June, has hit a snag. The National Political Congress of Black Women has mounted a major offensive to block the statue. Their objection: It doesn't have any black women in it. The group is particularly miffed that the statue fails to include Sojourner Truth, the 19th-century African-American abolitionist and women's rights advocate. With that, a new dilemma has arisen. So has a rift between progressive women who usually are allied. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, D-Ga., who is black, plans to introduce legislation to block the move, although she initially supported it. By contrast, Sen. Carol Moseley-Braun, D-Ill., the only Afr ican-American in the Senate, supports a Sojourner Truth sculpture, but she doesn't think that should hold up the reinstallation of the existing statue. She makes a good point. In the current penny-pinching, white-male-dominated Congress, it is probably this statue or no statue at all that gets installed in the Rotunda to honor women. But its opponents are more concerned that Sojourner Truth, long overlooked by so many, may get overlooked again. "That statue has stood for 75 years without Truth," C.

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