Who is Freedom? Freedom is the statue of a woman who stands atop the U.S. Capitol building.
Why does it matter that she’s on top?
Freedom, who is prominently located in the heart of DC, is one of the few statues of women. In fact, according to “America Needs More Stone-faced Women,” less than 8% of public statues honor women! There are many statues in DC, but few of them depict women!
According to Bill O’Leary’s “Gender inequality, in form:”
9 out of the 100 statues in the National Statuary Hall Collection are of women.
Our nation’s Capitol, a symbol of American, democratic, values has a woman standing on top of it, but contains few other representations of women within it. The Statue of Freedom is a rendering of the Goddess of Columbia, which is usually seen as the personification of the United States of America. I am baffled at the fact that women are given that much symbolic significance, yet they are not equally represented in statue form, or in our legislative bodies.
As Barry Schwartz points out in his article “Iconography and Collective Memory: Lincoln’s Image in the American Mind.” “Arguments about statues often turn out to be arguments about the past and its legacy.” Statues are made to commemorate prominent historical figures, so that they will be remembered and so that a collective memory of them will be established. The fact that we have so few commemorative statues of women in the Capitol makes me question a couple of things:
- Were women throughout history just not relevant enough to commemorate?
- Do the lack of statues depicting women of achievement add to the inequality women face today?
In response to the first bullet, here’s a crash course on influential American Women from US history, explaining that there is MUCH to be sculpted in honor of women:
It’s nothing new, but people in the U.S. are FINALLY starting to pay more attention to the fact that women are vastly underrepresented in American legislative bodies. As per the Center for American Women and Politics, in their Women in the U.S. Congress Fact Sheet: “Women currently hold 99, or 18.5%, of the 535 seats in the 113th U.S. Congress.”
What do statues have to do with power and the amount of women in Congress?
EVERYTHING. Culture reflects what society values, if our Capitol building primarily reflects the value of men, and the accomplishments of men throughout history, it will be less welcoming of women leaders. Women have less power in the United States, and the lack of statues reflects that. After all, the lack of statues speaks loud and clear: the accomplishments of women aren’t as celebrated as the accomplishments of men.
We need to commemorate the women who have shaped America, so that more women will run for office, take their power and change it for the better!