August is a historic month for several reasons that all woven together by a common thread. Not only is it the month in which Women’s Equality Day falls (August 26), but it’s also the anniversary month of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote 100 years ago on August 18, 1920. Last year, we added yet another momentous occasion to the August calendar: August 26, 2020 marked the culmination of years of effort by Monumental Women, of which Head of the New York Life Foundation Heather Nesle is a board member, to recognize female historical figures by erecting the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument. The statue features Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
To mark the one-year anniversary of the historic event, New York Life has been presented with one of the first-ever Moving History Forward awards from Monumental Women recognizing our $500,000 matching grant that ignited the fuse of fundraising appeals.
New York Life became involved in this effort in 2016 when we joined forces with Monumental Women to break the bronze ceiling in New York City's Central Park. We made a $500,000 Challenge Grant toward the creation of the Park's first statue of real women. Prior to the début of the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, Central Park only included statues of fictional characters, such as Mother Goose, Alice in Wonderland, Juliet (with her Romeo), and numerous representations of the female form (like angels, nymphs, and allegorical figures).
A commitment to diversity and women’s issues
The grant was another way for the company to honor women and all those who battled to achieve votes for women, the largest non-violent revolution in this nation's history, and to demonstrate New York Life’s commitment to diversity and women’s issues. The grant was also appealing to the company because of the historic relationship New York Life had with the Anthony family. Susan B. Anthony used the cash value from her New York Life insurance policy to guarantee admittance to the first female students at the University of Rochester. In addition, Anthony's father, brother, and brother-in-law were New York Life agents.
Remarking on the one-year anniversary of the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument, Pam Elam, Board President of Monumental Women, said: “Last August 26th, Monumental Women highlighted the unveiling of our Women's Rights Pioneers Monument in Central Park. This August 26th, Monumental Women highlights the unveiling of our virtual NYC Women's Rights History Trail through all five boroughs. I'm excited to see what we come up with next to increase the awareness of and appreciation for Women's History.
In addition to presenting virtual awards, Monumental Women also unveiled its new virtual Five-Borough New York City Women’s Rights History Trail. The map currently includes 150+ New York City historical* women that are linked to locations around the New York City where key moments in advancing women’s rights occurred. The goal of the virtual trail is help people learn more about women’s history and find sites that they may have passed by without knowing anything about the significant events that took place there.
Looking ahead to 2022, Monumental Women will donate a 1/3-size model of the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument to the New York State Museum in Albany.
photo credit: sculptor Meredith Bergmann.
*All women on the Trail are deceased.
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