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Virginia Women's Monument Unveiled, Funding for Statues Still Needed 

click to enlarge Former First Lady Susan Allen and current First Lady Pamela Northam applaud from the left side of the Wall of Honor just after the reveal.

Pierre Courtois, Library of Virginia

Former First Lady Susan Allen and current First Lady Pamela Northam applaud from the left side of the Wall of Honor just after the reveal.

On Tuesday, organizers behind the Virginia Women’s Monument unveiled a recently completed granite plaza on the Capitol grounds with the names of 230 women inscribed on its Wall of Honor.

The Virginia Women’s Monument is the nation’s first monument designed “to recognize the significant, but often unrecognized contributions and accomplishments [of women] in a variety of fields and endeavors over the 400-year history of Virginia,” according to a press release.

The tiered bench seating alone weighed over 18,000 pounds, according to contractor Virginia Masonry Restoration. It also features an inscribed quote by Mary Johnston, a well-known Virginia author from the early 20th century, which reads: “It did not come up in the night, the Women’s Movement, and it is in no danger of perishing from view. It is here to stay and grow. … It is indestructible, it is moving on with an ever-increasing depth and velocity, and it is going to revolutionize the world – Mary Johnston, 1912.”

Colleen Dugan Messick, executive director of the Virginia Capitol Foundation, told Style that deciding on the 230 names for the wall was a huge task for the Women’s Monument Commission.

“They accepted nominations for about four years and worked closely with the Library of Virginia and narrowed it down,” she says, noting the wall has enough space for 400 names. “So this is a living monument in perpetuity. We are taking nominations and the commission is looking to re-evaluate maybe five years down the road.”

She added that, once this monument is complete, there will be an educational component featuring web-based applications so students can visit and learn more about these important women.

Fundraising is ongoing for the construction of eight bronze statues of women to be installed on the plaza in the fall of 2019. Three million has been raised so far, funding statues of Pamunkey chief Cockacoeske, Jamestown settler Anne Burras Laydon, educator Virginia E. Randolph and suffragist Adele Clark (all of them to be built by a StudioEIS, a Brooklyn company). The remaining eight statues, which still require $800,000 in funding include: Martha Washington, Maggie Walker, Mary Draper Ingles, Clementina Rind, Elizabeth Keckly, Sally Tompkins, Sarah G. Jones, and Laura S. Copenhaver.

Author Frances Broaddus Crutchfield was a major donor who made the case for including the statue of Cockacoeske, a Pamunkey chief who signed the Treaty of Middle Plantation in 1677, eventually establishing the Pamunkey Reservation. Sitting on the new granite beach on this sunny morning, Crutchfield was all smiles.

“It’s so exciting. That quote [by Mary Johnston] at this moment in history is so unbelievably appropriate,” she said, before further elaborating on her role in securing a statue for the former Pamunkey chief. “I gave a presentation on Cockacoeske, Powhatan’s niece, and we’re not sure whether she and her husband were joint chiefs or if she succeeded him … but Nathaniel Bacon killed her husband and she wound up taking over, holding together what was left of the Powhatan confederacy, as well as adding two more tribes. She kept the peace for 30 years among the colonists and the British. I thought she was most deserving and they agreed.”

For more information on the project, go to http://womensmonumentcom.virginia.gov.

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