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She should be here

Statues of historic men can be found throughout Chicago’s parks and plazas. But one Curious Citizen thinks there aren’t enough tributes to women. So, we asked you to nominate influential women you think should be memorialized in marble.

Curious Citizen Kate Hannigan spends a lot time walking through Chicago’s parks and streets, and there’s something that really bugs her — it’s something that she doesn’t see. So she asked Curious City, “Where are all the statues of women?"

Kate’s onto something. In Chicago, there are around 40 figurative statues of historic men but just one of a woman, Justice Laura Liu, the first Chinese-American to serve on the Illinois Appellate Court. Part of the reason why there aren’t more statues like Liu is because by the time Chicago started to honor women in public spaces, erecting full-size statues had gone out of style. So there are some plaques and benches dedicated to women and a few statues of fictional female characters, like Dorothy, but not much else.

Kate thinks this lack of representation of actual historic women is a problem, and she’d like to see more figurative statues around the city. She’s even thought about who she’d want to see erected in stone or marble, women like Gwendolyn Brooks and Bessie Coleman.

We wondered who else might deserve this kind of honor, so we asked Curious Citizens which women should be commemorated and why. We received more than 100 responses, ranging from physicists to playwrights. Below are some of the historic Chicago women who were nominated. Some of the suggestions might not be household names even though they changed history by fighting for a woman’s right to vote or an eight-hour work day. Others are more familiar names. But even if you know the name, you might still be surprised by how much they accomplished and how little recognition they’ve received. For the full list of nominees, click here.

Jane Addams

Activist and social worker

1860-1935

Myra Bradwell

Lawyer and editor

1831-1894

Gwendolyn Brooks

Poet, author, and teacher

1917-2000

Margaret Burroughs

Educator and museum founder

1915-2010

Jane Byrne

Mayor of Chicago

1933-2014

St. Francis Xavier Cabrini

Nun and activist

1850 - 1917

Mitsuye Endo

Plaintiff in Supreme Court case

1920-2006

Mahalia Jackson

Musician and civil rights activist

1911-1972

Etta James

Grammy award-winning singer

1938-2012

Hazel Johnson

Environmental activist

1935 - 2011

Kitihawa

Native American trader

1755-1809 (Exact date of birth is unknown)

Leona Marshall Libby

Physicist

1919-1986

Mary Livermore

Journalist, abolitionist and suffragist

1820-1905

Lucy Parsons

Labor activist

1853-1942

Ethel Payne

Journalist

1911-1991

Grace Wilbur Trout

Suffragist

1864-1955

Ida B. Wells

Journalist and activist

1862-1931

Frances Willard

Educator, temperance reformer,
and women's suffragist

1839-1898

More about our questioner

Kate Hannigan is an author who lives in Hyde Park with her husband, three kids, and dog. She worked as a journalist for many years before putting her pen to paper for young readers. Today, she writes books for children and middle-school readers, and she is working on numerous books about important historical women, including one about Margaret Burroughs, the co-founder of the DuSable Museum of African American History. Kate feels like the lack of figurative statues of women reflects how women’s contributions have been overlooked — and she thinks this should change. She wants to see tall, imposing statues of women who have made an impact on Chicago, just like the statues she sees of men.

“We have currently dogs on Michigan Avenue, we’ve had cows. I think we had Marilyn Monroe and you could look up her skirt,” says Kate, “All of those things are ways people remember our city, why not remember it through these amazing Chicagoans?”


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