How a New York Life insurance policy helped advance the cause of women’s rights.

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Sculptor Meredith Bergmann was announced the winner of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Women’s Suffrage Movement Monument Design Competition. Her design of women’s rights pioneers Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and 23 women who worked with them will ensure that these women take their place forever in the Mall in Central Park, New York City. This work will be the first representation in Central Park of women who were real people, and not fictional like Alice in Wonderland or Shakespeare’s Juliet. And New York Life was an early supporter, providing The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund, Inc., with a $500,000 challenge grant to the company’s commitment to diversity and women’s issues, and honor the proud historic relationship New York Life had with the Anthony family.

"We are proud to be the lead funder for this historic project. It is an investment that makes sense to us on so many levels—as a company that champions diversity, has deep roots in NYC and a strong connection to Susan B. Anthony, who used the cash value of her New York Life insurance policy in 1900 to guarantee admission for the first female students into the University of Rochester," said Heather Nesle, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility, New York Life. "This is an important day for everyone dedicated to honoring a truly monumental movement."

"This is an important day for everyone dedicated to honoring a truly monumental movement."

Heather Nesle, Vice President of Corporate Responsibility

Here’s where the New York Life insurance policy comes in. The University of Rochester was founded as an all-male institution. By the 1880’s, women began to petition the university to open its doors to women. Finally, in 1900, the board of trustees voted to allow women if they raised $110,000. When their total fell short, on the day before the deadline expired, Susan B. Anthony pledged her New York Life insurance policy to secure the final amount and guarantee that women could attend college that fall.

Artist Meredith Bergmann has an extensive list of work, including the Boston Women’s Memorial, the Memorial to September 11 in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and the FDR Hope memorial.

“I’m honored to have been chosen to make this monument to a movement that transformed our democracy so profoundly from within, and without bloodshed, and that began with two women writing together, composing the most powerful arguments they could imagine. It’s a great subject for a sculpture,” said Ms. Bergmann.

Her design will be on exhibit at the New-York Historical Society until the end of July, with plans to show it at the New York State Museum in Albany in late August for Women’s Equality Day. Her design was chosen from 91 entries from artists across the country, and reviewed by a diverse jury of art and design professionals, historians, and representatives from the New York City Parks and the Statue Fund. 

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