RICHMOND — After almost 10 years in the works, the Virginia Women’s Monument is going to be unveiled at Capitol Square on Monday.
Seven life-size bronze statues of Virginia women are being installed on Capitol Square, including 18th century settler Mary Draper Ingles, who escaped captivity from the Shawnee tribe and made an epic journey home to the New River Valley.
“Teaching the history of important contributions Virginia women have made throughout 400 years will transform the narrative here at the Virginia State Capitol,” said Colleen Messick, executive director of the Virginia Capitol Foundation and a member of the Women’s Monument Commission.
The goal of the monument is to highlight Virginia women who have made significant, but often unrecognized, contributions to Virginia.
“We’ve all heard about Pocahontas, but no one knows about Cockacoeske, a 17th-century female Pamunkey chieftain,” Messick said.
Cockacoeske is among the other statues being installed at the Virginia Women’s Monument.
In addition to Cockacoeske and Ingles, the y include Anne Burras Laydon, a Jamestown colonist; Elizabeth Keckly, a seamstress who bought her freedom and became the dressmaker for Mary Todd Lincoln; Laura Copenhaver, a Smyth County entrepreneur in the textile industry during the Great Depression; Virginia Randolph, an African American educator; and Adèle Clark, an artist and suffragist who helped establish the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia.
The seven statues will be installed at eye-level, so visitors can readily interact with them. They are surrounded by a Wall of Honor inscribed with the names of 230 prominent Virginia women etched on glass, with room for more names .
The monument cost $3.7 million, which was raised through contributions from individuals, corporations and nonprofit foundations.
Each bronze statue required a financial investment of $200,000 and was sculpted by StudioEIS in Brooklyn, New York.
Ivan Schwartz, the director of StudioEIS, was on hand as the statues were being installed at the Capitol on Tuesday. He spoke about the lack of monuments to women across the United States and the importance of “filling the void.”
“Today we are changing, the symbols in America are changing. Ten years ago this might not have happened. Women, African Americans and Native Americans were excised and not included in our public spaces of America. But that’s changing now, very rapidly,” Schwartz said.
He said the greatest challenge was historical accuracy and creating accurate likenessness of the women, some of whom were never portrayed by contemporary artists or lived before the era of photography.
Five more statues are planned for the monument, including: Martha Washington, first lady and wife of George Washington; Clementina Rind, Colonial businesswoman and printer; Sally Tompkins, Confederate hospital administrator; Maggie Walker, entrepreneur and civil rights leader; and Sarah Jones, African American physician.
They will be added as they are funded . Approximately $125,000 is still needed to complete the monument.
“Like many states, Virginia has seldom recognized or elevated the significant contributions that women have made in every aspect of our great commonwealth’s history and culture,” former state Sen. Mary Margaret Whipple, vice chair of the Women’s Monument Commission, said in a statement.