Harriet Tubman may become the first African American, first slave and 10th woman to be featured in the National Statuary Hall in Washington, D.C. She would be one of two statues representing the state of Maryland.
Equal Visibility Everywhere (EVE), a nonprofit dedicated to placing more women as symbols and icons of the U.S. and celebrating women’s achievements, is spearheading the effort to increase the number of women in the 100-statue hall at the Capitol.
Maryland state delegate Susan C. Lee announced today that she will introduce a bill to replace the statue of John Hanson, president of the Continental Congress under the Articles of Confederation, with a new statue of Tubman.
Tubman, leader of the Underground Railroad, a civil rights and women’s suffrage champion, is an iconic Maryland hero. Lee said:
This commemoration of Harriet Tubman will not only highlight the important contributions made by Maryland’s women and minorities to the history, development and progress of our state and nation, but also stand as a beacon of inspiration for the millions of Americans and visitors to our U.S. Capitol each year.
While the bill has garnered a plethora of supporters, it has also met opposition, mainly from conservative Democrat Thomas V. “Mike” Miller Jr., the Maryland senate president, who called the effort “insane:”
It’s not a racial issue, it’s not a women’s issue. It’s a common sense issue. You don’t take down a statue of the president of the United States.
The Hanson statue would not be taken down, but moved to a display at the state capitol in Annapolis. Maryland’s other statue, Charles Carroll (another white-guy slaveholder) will stay in D.C. The bill stipulates that the Tubman statue would be funded by nonprofit groups and private citizens, at no cost to taxpayers.
Statues are able to be replaced every 10 years, at each state’s discretion. With the help of EVE, Kansas is poised to replace its statue of John James Ingalls with Amelia Earhart. Earhart or Tubman will be the 10th woman in Statuary Hall, depending on which state gets the replacement made first. EVE will also be leading campaigns to encourage New York, California, Florida and Oklahoma, which are also looking to replace statues, to choose women figures.
When the majority of art in the Capitol shows men as the country’s heroes and history-makers, it has a problematic message for the other half of the population. “It’s a devastating message for girls,” said Lynette Long, president of EVE. “The message is subtle and subliminal and continuous. It says ‘You don’t contribute to our history.’”
Image from Wikimedia Commons.