Learn more about Women in Public Places and Spaces around the World.
Spotlight on 'She Will Not Take Her Boots Off' Greensboro, N.C. USA
Greensboro's Lebauer Park honors women of the Holocaust.
North Carolina's first women's Holocaust monument.
by Jessie Clodfelter
Greensboro, North Carolina is perhaps one of the lesser known cities within the United States, but it is still known for some imperative historical events and influence. Nestled in the Piedmont Triad in between North Carolina’s vast Blue Ridge Mountains and crystal Outer Banks, Greensboro’s has earned the reputation for being the Gate City, once populated with a multitude of train routes. In the Civil Rights Era, Greensboro was home to the Greensboro sit-in, where four African American students from A&T University sat at a designated all white counter at Woolworths Restaurant in reverence to the Civil Rights Movements and equitable and fair treatment of African Americans. Today, Greensboro is home to several colleges, ACC basketball tournaments, and a growing artistic community. In addition, Greensboro is also a homestead to a growing Jewish community. In their lifetime as an over 200 year old city, Greensboro has gathered the reputation for being a Civil Rights City where differences are celebrated, perspectives are shared, and stories are told.
As a result of this growing Jewish community, Greensboro will now be home to the “She Will Not Take Off Boots” monument. This monument was created to honor the women and children who died during the Holocaust for their strength, resilience, and honor. Even in death, those who perished, will not be forgotten but remembered and acknowledged. It will be North Carolina’s first Women’s Holocaust Monument. Specifically, the monument is set to honor the German and Latvian invasion of Liepaja’s Jewish population. During December 15-17, 1941, German and Latvian soldiers killed 2,749 individuals of the Jewish faith, which was more than half of the Jewish Community within Latvia. The creator behind the monument is artist, Victoria Milstein, who saw a photo of a Latvian family of 5 generational women right before they were murdered at the Holocaust site, Skede. All victims were ordered to strip their undergarments and face their imminent death. However, resiliently, these women held tightly to one another, and the family matriarch in the center refused to take off her boots.
While these boots may resemble just an article of clothing, they are meant to be so much more. The monument creator, Victoria Milstein, recognized the weight of this article of clothing when she discussed the image of the family matriarch, “I see within her such a resilience. I see within her all the women and children that have been victims of genocide. I see in her everything the opposite of what the nazi soldiers were trying to commemorate by photographing them is the inhumanity as them being less than human.” It is Milstein’s hope that the monument will serve as an opening of conversation, educating individuals on the horrific atrocities of The Holocaust, but in turn, remind them of these women’s courage and determination. Along with the monument, Milstein hopes to add a vintage camera in front of the monument that onlookers can look through to replicate the scene of Nazi’s photographing these women and staring straight into their bravery. The monument will be completed in bronze and is set to be revealed in late 2021 right in Greensboro’s Lebauer Park. Greensboro will pay homage to these heroic women and remember that this city is a place for everyone no matter where they come from.
Spotlight on statue Tlalli, Mexico City
Who should replace Columbus's statue?
Indigenous Women, of course.
by Sara Sotelo
For the commemorations of the 500th anniversary of the Fall of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec empire, the government of Mexico City announced several changes and celebrations that took place during 2021. Among them was the renaming of the “Plaza de La Noche Triste” (Night of Sorrows Square) to “Plaza de la Noche Victoriosa” (Victorious Night Square)—named after a battle where the Aztecs defeated the Spanish colonizers, the renaming of the “Puente de Alvarado Avenue” (named after the Spanish colonizer Pedro de Alvarado) to “México-Tenochtitlan Boulevard”, the renaming of “Zócalo/Tenochtitlan” metro station to include the name of the Aztec city—whose main temple is located near the station—,and the temporary exhibition by the name “Memoria Luminosa” (Luminous Memory) at the Zócalo, featuring a replica of the temple. But perhaps the most controversial of them all is Tlalli (Nahuatl transl. "land") a bust that is set to replace a monument to Christopher Columbus, originally located on the roundabout along Paseo de la Reforma Avenue, in Cuauhtémoc, Mexico City. To be sculpted by Pedro Reyes.
Tlalli was inspired by the Olmec colossal heads and its intention is to honor 500 years of the resistance of indigenous women. The mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, announced on 5 September 2021, International Indigenous Women's Day, that Tlalli would replace the monument to Columbus. She also announced that the statue of Columbus would not be returned to its original site. Instead, it would be relocated to American Park in Polanco, Miguel Hidalgo, and that the relocation was not to "erase history" but to "deliver social justice". The announcement, design, name, and the selection of Reyes as the sculptor, as well the undiscussed removal of Columbus, received mixed opinions, to say the least.
The choice of Reyes as the sculptor received additional criticism, including the fact that he is not a woman and is not part of the indigenous peoples of the country. Tlalli's name received further commentaries, including those from Yásnaya Aguilar, Mixe linguist, and writer, who questioned the Nahuatl name on an Olmec representation as the population spoke in Mixe–Zoque languages. Aguilar also criticized the generalization of women (like in the Monument to the Indigenous Women or the Monument to the Mother), as men commonly receive concrete recognition (like Columbus and his monument). Investigator Lucía Melgar added that it represents women as "generic, mute and immobilized".Historian Federico Navarrete said it exemplifies how indigenous people are seen under an "essentialist view that [they are] all the same". More than 300 people linked to art and culture signed a petition for Sheinbaum requesting the exclusion of Reyes from the project and the creation of a committee composed of women from indigenous communities who can choose a monument that represents them. Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said public debates would be held in 2021 to determine the future of the monument. So I guess we’ll just have to wait and see what the future holds for Tlalli, as she’s set to be finished by March 2022.
Where are Chicago’s Women?
Men Dominate Public Spaces 10-1
by Mia Dawn Taylor
In the city of Chicago, Illinois, women are statistically underrepresented in the public space. Taken from the Chicago Park District official website’s list of Artwork and Monuments, it can be found that in total there are 66 statues and busts of men in comparison to a total of 16 women. Statues For Equality, an organization that aims to lift women's representation in the public space to 50% around the world, lists 3 historical women statues in Chicago. These are Jane Addams (does not feature a full body or bust, but rather hands), Georgiana Rose Simpson (not listed on Chicago Park District and not technically in the public space), and Gwendolyn Brooks. The Gwendolyn Brooks statue was the first statue of a historical woman to be unveiled in 2018, only 3 years ago. There also exists a statue of Justice Laura Liu in Ping Tom Park in Chicago, rounding the total number of historical women statues to 4. The remaining 16 figures are made up of fictional characters, mythological and/or unnamed female figures. We can compare this to an overwhelming number of men historical figures. At least 39 of the 66 statues of men contain the title “Monument” or “Memorial.” Chicagoans describe this phenomenon as “shocking,” “insulting,” and even “stifling inspiration for young girls in the city. They should see themselves being celebrated.”
There are currently 41 statues in the city under review for potential removal based on racial and historical reckonings, and hopefully, this may lead to the welcoming of new representation of historical figures, including women. Moving forward, we should be uplifting and commemorating the women who have shaped our city and those who come from our city who have shaped the world. For the next statue to be issued and commissioned, I propose Hazel M. Johnson. Affectionately known as the ‘mother of environmental justice,’ Johnson strove to improve the living conditions of public housing in Chicago. She made connections between poor living conditions, poor health, and environmental issues and thus founded the People for Community Recovery. Johnson was an activist for not only her community but for global environmental change from the 70s until she passed in 2011. The illustration above is a vision to see her commemorated in the public space—a place she was dedicated to restore and nurture.
Illustration by Mia Dawn Taylor