Monumental Women

04/18/2017 02:04 pm ET

The growing controversy spurred by the “Fearless Girl" statue, that boldly challenges Wall Street's "Charging Bull" highlights how few public monuments, parks, schools, and other public spaces depict or are named for courageous and audacious women. It is a stark reminder that almost 97 years after women’s suffrage, our society too often only recognizes white men as heroes, builders, and benefactors.

Cities across the country are filled with memorials to male presidents--the Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson memorials in DC; the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, the George Bush headquarters of the CIA and JFK highways and high schools in hundreds of towns across the country. But presidential monuments are not the only indices of how absent women are from public spaces.

Pam Elam, President of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund has noted “New York City’s Central Park only includes statues of Mother Goose, Alice in Wonderland, Juliet (with her Romeo), and numerous representations of the female form (like angels, nymphs and allegorical figures).” Statues of courageous women, living or dead, are notably absent.

Some of the largest airports in the nation are named for men: Fiorello La Guardia, the Mayor of New York has his name attached to New York’s airport. Lieutenant Commander “Butch” O’Hare, a naval officer from World War II gets the honors in Chicago and the busiest airport in the world, Hartsfeld-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, is named for a former Alderman and Mayor of Atlanta, Seems like an airport named for Amelia Earhart or Pancho Barnes, accomplished women aviators might be appropriate.

Similarly, except for the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, our sports stadiums, arenas, and local sports fields mostly are named for white men. Curly Lambeau a player and coach for the Packers got the honors in Green Bay, and the Bryant–Denny Stadium, home to the Alabama Crimson Tide got its name from the University President George Denny and their most famous coach, Bear Bryant. But women too are accomplished coaches and athletes. How about Summitt Stadium in honor of Pat Summitt who lead the Tennessee Lady Volunteers with 1,098 career wins or Hamm Field for Mia Hamm, two-time Olympic gold medalist and FIFA Women's World Cup winner? Big monuments, airports or stadiums need not be the first places to adorn with the names of courageous women. I’d settle for public elementary schools, neighborhood parks, recreation centers, libraries or highway bridges to start. Imagine a Marie Curie Drive or Katherine Johnson Public Library in honor one of the brilliant African-American women at NASA whose stories were told in the recent movie, Hidden Figures?

And the private sector could get into the act. Law firms could dedicate conference rooms to honor the first female Supreme Court Justice, Sandra Day O'Connor or Shirley Chisholm or Barbara Jordon, distinguished members of Congress.

With the increasing number of women in state legislatures, on school boards, and county councils, and supportive male allies working with them, we have an opportunity to highlight the unique and important contributions of women.

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