National Historic American Women Statue Initiative

Like coins and currency, statues are commissioned in honor of people who have made significant contributions.

In the summer of 2016, Rosie Rios researched the top ten cities in the United States by population to survey their statues of women. The cities from largest to smallest included New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas and San Jose.  She also added Washington D.C., the nation’s capital, and San Francisco, her hometown.

The focus of Rosie’s analysis was whether or not real statues of historic American (non-allegorical) women existed outdoors in the public domain where they could be seen by a critical mass either in their downtown or main park. Her initial findings concluded that in all twelve cities combined, there were less than half a dozen statues.

Rosie has reached out to major stakeholders throughout each of the identified cities to find the appropriate champions.  Every city will be different.  In some cases, it will be a Mayor, a corporation or a community stakeholder. The goal is to have every one of the cities identified actively engaged in their own statue initiative by the year 2020. With the research already completed and with the other cities already generating national attention, a more robust outreach strategy including social media, will be helpful to find the Champion who will own the project in their respective city.

Preliminary Findings


NEW YORK:  Central Park

  • 23 statues of real people
  • Three allegorical women:  Mother Goose, Alice in Wonderland and Juliet
  • No real American women

SAN FRANCISCO:  No real American female statues in the entire city

  • Golden Gate Park: 14 Statues, one allegorical woman, “The Pioneer Mother”.
  • One other outdoor public statue in the City: Florence Nightingale, British citizen.


  • Over 100 outdoor public statues of real people: 2 real American women
  • Eleanor Roosevelt and Mary McLeod Bethune (Lincoln Park)


  • Two statues of real people: George Washington and Christopher Columbus
  • No real American women

CHICAGO: Lincoln Park

  • 15 Statues
  • One allegorical woman: “Dream Lady”
  • No real American women

HOUSTON: Memorial Park

  • Public images do not reflect any real American women

SAN JOSE: St. James Park

  • Three statues of real men: William McKinley, Robert F. Kennedy, Brigadier General Henry Morris Nagle
  • Public images do not reflect real American women


  • Kate Sessions, Balboa Park
  • Dr. Seuss & Cat in the Hat, Lark Grey Dimond-Cates:  Geisel Library at UCSD La Jolla
  • Unconditional Surrender, J. Seward Johnson: Towering 25 feet above harbor visitors, this iconic sculpture depicts a World War II-era sailor and nurse in an embrace and kiss
  • A National Salute to Bob Hope & the Military


  • Public images do not reflect any real historic American women

PHOENIX: Downtown

  • Public images do not reflect any real historic American women


  • Public images do not reflect any real historic American women
  • The Six Ladies of Fair Park (allegorical)
  • Dallas Arboretum & Botanical Gardens: “Statue in Women’s Garden” (allegorical)


  • Public images do not reflect any real historic American women
  • Historic Market Square:  Mexican Woman
  • La Veladora of Our Lady of Guadalupe
  • Victoria is a stainless steel sculpture of a head on permanent display on the grounds of the McNay Art Museum.

Areas of Focus

Rosie created the following tiered priority list.

The goal is to have all twelve cities engaged with planned statues underway and/or completed by the year 2020.

New York, San Francisco, Washington D.C.

Los Angeles, Chicago, San Jose

Philadelphia, San Antornio, Phoenix

Houston, Detroit, Dallas

Preliminary Targets

Central Park and the cities of San Francisco and Washington D.C. were selected based on feasibility, contacts and which areas would have the most initial impact.

Central Park, NY

Pam Elam and Coline Jenkins (heir of Elizabeth Cady Stanton) had been working diligently for some time to add a statue of a woman in Central Park. During Rosie’s speaking engagements, she focused on the power of visibility on currency, in education and in the public domain and highlighted that Central Park had Alice in Wonderland and Mother Goose among the 23 statues of real women, with no real women. In one particular presentation in Washington D.C., a woman approached her afterwards and said she was an employee with New York Life and they needed to hear this story. She was introduced to Heather Nesle who was head of the New York Life Foundation and CEO Ted Mathas.

In February 2017, Pam, Coline, and Rosie were the closing speakers at New York Life’s announcement of their $500,000 contribution to the first ever female statue in Central Park. The statue will feature Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and will be unveiled on August 26, 2020 on Literary Row.

San Francisco

A similar story occurred in San Francisco where two legislative aides from the City of San Francisco heard Rosie speak at an event.  Rosie spoke about San Francisco only having one female statue in Golden Gate Park, “The Pioneer Woman” and one other statue in the entire city, Florence Nightingale, a British citizen.  San Francisco is now planning a statue of Maya Angelou in front of the Main Library.

Both of these stories were featured in an article in Time Magazine in August 2017 about female statues and highlighted Rosie’s efforts.

Washington, D.C.

In our nation’s capital, people come from all over the world to see what we value and whom we value. There are well over 100 statues of real people outdoors in the public domain for all to see. Only two of them are real women:  Eleanor Roosevelt (at her husband’s memorial) and Mary McLeod Bethune (Lincoln Park).

In the fall of 2017, after reading about Rosie’s statue initiative in a Time Magazine article, she was contacted by Washington DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie regarding potential legislation.  Rosie was invited to testify in support of Councilmember McDuffie’s proposal for eight new statues of women and people of color in Washington DC. In her testimony, Rosie emphasized the value of physically recognizing women in the public domain and her efforts underway including her national statue initiative honoring historic American women. She stressed the importance of having the Council of our nation’s capital lead the efforts to so that our nation and international visitors could enjoy a more equitable representation of U.S. history.