RICHMOND, Va. — After planning and designing for ten years, the Virginia Women’s Monument was finally uncovered on the state Capitol grounds Monday.
One after another, Girl Scouts pulled away the blue cloth covering the life-size bronze statues. The crowd of more than 800 cheered, seeing the faces of history making women like Pamunkey Chief Cockacoeske and educational leader Virginia Randolph.
“These women rose to the occasion,” former State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple said. “And made significant achievements. They were from all walks of life, from different times and places.”
Whipple is the vice chair of the Virginia Women’s Monument Commission which spearheaded the project. The diversity and variety of the achievements acknowledged on the monument was deeply considered by the commission.
The groundbreaking for the monument was in December of 2017 and work has been going on since then on the Capitol grounds. More work still needs to be done.
Seven of the 12 statues were installed last week by artist Ivan Schwartz of StudioEIS in Brooklyn, New York. The commission raised about $3.7 million to pay for the monument, with each statue costing about $200,000. More than $100,000 still needs to be raised to complete the last statues, which are expected to be finished and installed in Richmond next spring.
“This monument is the first in the nation to celebrate the individual and collective accomplishments of women over four centuries,” Gov. Ralph Northam said.
The monument also has a “Wall of Honor” with names of more than 230 notable women as well. There was room left for more names to be added in the future.
“Our hope is that they will inspire young women who see their names and who walked among their statues to say ‘Oh, I think I can do that. I’d like to be on that glass wall someday,’” Whipple said. “And we’ve left the space for them to be there.”
For some of the young women at the dedication ceremony, seeing the faces of these trailblazers let them know girls can do anything.
“Anyone can really leave an impact no matter who they are or where they’re from,” Joi Taylor, of Girl Scout Troop 5884, said. “I think that they’ve made a way for us to progress and speak our minds today.”
Once the rest of the statues are complete, members of the commission say a smaller dedication ceremony will be held next spring.