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.
Activist and social worker
Lawyer and editor
Poet, author, and teacher
Educator and museum founder
Mayor of Chicago
St. Francis Xavier Cabrini
Nun and activist
1850 - 1917
Plaintiff in Supreme Court case
Musician and civil rights activist
Grammy award-winning singer
1935 - 2011
Native American trader
1755-1809 (Exact date of birth is unknown)
Leona Marshall Libby
Journalist, abolitionist and suffragist
Grace Wilbur Trout
Ida B. Wells
Journalist and activist
Educator, temperance reformer,
and women's suffragist
“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?”