For more than 100 years, International Women’s Day has been a rallying point for advancing and celebrating rights and opportunities for women in countries around the world. Initial goals were focused on such issues as the right to work, vote, be trained and hold public office. Today, political rallies are joined by business conferences, networking events and local celebrations featuring women’s crafts, theater and more.
In honor of this celebration of women, we’ve compiled our list of top 10 monuments to women leaders. They are a mix of political, social and cultural heroines – a perfect analogy for the diverse contributions womankind brings to the world at large.
Victoria Memorial, London, England
A fitting tribute to the longest reigning British monarch (Queen Elizabeth II has more than two years to go to catch her), this bronze and marble memorial stands grandly in front of Buckingham Palace in the center of the Queen’s Gardens. Dedicated in 1911 and finished in 1924, the Victoria Memorial features layers upon layers of detail. Most notable is the gilt-coated, winged Victory figure that towers down from on high. The statue of Queen Victoria, a 13-foot likeness carved in stone, faces away from the Palace and down the Mall. She is joined by an angel of Truth on one side and Justice on the other with Charity (or Motherhood), a figure with three children, rounding out the circle at the center of the memorial. Flowing out from there are fountains, a series of nautical details and groupings of bronze statues. This expansive display of honor for a beloved and historic Queen was, appropriately, the setting for the 2012 concert marking Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, a celebration of her 60th year on the throne. Search and compare cheap flights to England.
Julia Tuttle Statue, Bayfront Park, Miami, Florida
The “Founding Mother” of Miami, Julia Tuttle basically willed the city into existence. When she first set foot in the swamp lands of South Florida in 1875, Tuttle had a vision for a city built along the Miami River. Six year later she settled on 600 plus acres along the river and then set about gathering the 300 signatures needed to incorporate the city. Her most legendary accomplishment, though, was enticing railroad baron Henry Flagler to extend the railroad the length of Florida to put her city on the map. He remained uninterested in such a move until an extreme frost ruined the orange crops of north and central Florida one winter. According to local lore, Tuttle sent Flagler an orange blossom from the still-thriving crop of Miami. That brought Flagler and the railroad south, cementing Miami’s future and Tuttle’s legacy. She was honored on the 114th birthday of the city with the unveiling of a 10-foot-tall bronze statue overlooking the seaport. The statue holds a basket full of oranges and, in an outstretched hand, orange blossoms. Search and compare cheap flights to Miami.
Edith Dircksey Cowan Memorial, King’s Park, Perth, Australia
An established champion of women’s and children’s issues, Edith Cowan campaigned hard in the effort to pass the 1920 legislation to open Parliament to women. When the legislation passed, she immediately put it to the test, running in the 1921 State Election to represent West Perth in the Legislative Assembly of Western Australia. Well known through her work for the Red Cross during World War I and her involvement with groups ranging from the National Council of Women and Children’s Protection Society, she won her seat and became the first female in any of Australia’s Parliaments. While in office, she continued her trailblazing ways, helping enact legislation that opened the legal profession to women. Her role in history is marked by an elegant clock tower, roughly 20 feet tall, at the entrance to King’s Park. Built in 1934, the memorial itself is a trailblazer too as it is believed to be the first civic monument built to honor a woman in Australia. Search and compare cheap flights to Australia.
Fremiet’s Joan of Arc, Place des Pyramides, Paris, France
This French warrior claimed divine guidance and charged into battle, leading the French Army to numerous key victories in the 100 Year War with her aggressive style and bold battle actions. Wounded more than once, she was captured as the last to leave the battle field in Margny in 1430. Eventually burned at the stake as a heretic at just 19 years old and later canonized as a martyr, Joan of Arc’s legacy has proved enduring, if not expanding. In 1874, Napoleon III commissioned a statue to her in Paris at the Place des Pyramides, near where she was injured in battle, to rebuild pride after the country was defeated in the Franco-Prussian War. One of many statues to the young French Saint, this one is an eye-catching 13-foot, gilded bronze piece showing her astride her horse, holding her war banner. It captured the attention of the city of Philadelphia, which asked for a duplicate casting. However, reportedly, the Pennsylvania city instead received the original 1874 statue as the sculptor, Emmanuel Fremiet, reworked and replaced the statue in 1899. Castings of the modified statue now reside in Nancy, France, and Victoria, Australia, as well as Portland, Ore. and New Orleans, La. Search and compare cheap flights to France.
The “Swing Low” Harriet Tubman Statue, New York, New York
In the age of slavery, freedom for many came via the “Underground Railroad.” And for 10 years, Harriet Tubman was a “conductor,” making 19 trips to lead more than 300 slaves north to freedom traveling under the cover of night and guided by the North Star. An escaped slave herself, Tubman risked her safety and liberty with each harrowing trip and had a $40,000 bounty on her head by 1856 but continued her forays until 1860. Often called the Moses of her people, she served as a cook and even a spy for the Union during the Civil War, was active in abolitionist circles and eventually settled in upstate New York where she helped champion women’s right to vote. Her likeness can be seen charging steadfastly forward in a 10-foot tall bronze statue, titled “Swing Low” in New York’s Harlem neighborhood. The statue, which was completed in 2008, is in the center of Harriet Tubman Memorial Plaza, adjacent to Frederick Douglas Boulevard. Search and compare cheap flights to New York.
The Portrait Monument, United States Capitol, Washington, D.C.
First accepted by Congress in 1921, one year after women were guaranteed the right to vote by the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, this eight-ton marble sculpture is literally the face of the suffrage movement. It comprises the busts of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott, three of the pioneering champions of women’s voting rights. Each played a distinct role, from organizing the Seneca Falls, N.Y. convention that launched the women’s rights movement to drafting the women’s bill of rights and proposing the Constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right to vote. While the sculpture was ushered into the Capitol quickly on the heels of the new law of the land, its initial home was the Crypt, the room directly below the Rotunda. However, in 1997, the legislature moved to relocate the monument to the Rotunda, the epicenter of the Capitol and Congress. Search and compare cheap flights to Washington, D.C.
The Women are Persons! Monument, Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada
The route to political empowerment in Canada took its own interesting route. In 1927, Emily Murphy, Irene Marryat Parlby, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney and Henrietta Muir Edwards, who history has dubbed the Famous or Valiant Five, petitioned the Supreme Court to clarify whether the word “persons” in the founding documents of Canada and its government included females. The Supreme Court ruled that it did not include women if the question meant could they be appointed to the Senate. This ruling, however, was overturned by the British Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. The Ottawa monument, and the version in Calgary, capital of their home province of Alberta, captures an imagined and larger than life celebration by the Famous Five, complete with a newspaper reading the headline of the day: We are Persons! Dedicated in 2000 atop Parliament Hill, the bronze sculpture includes an empty chair so passersby can join in the victory. Search and compare cheap flights to Ottawa.
Monument to Catherine the Great, St. Petersburg, Russia
Ruler of Russia for more than 35 years, the German-born Catherine II or Catherine the Great was a powerful influence in the latter half of the 18thcentury. A modern woman by many standards, she promoted education and enlightenment and worked to modernize and westernize Russia even as she looked to expand her empire. She is immortalized in St. Petersburg with a monument that captures her in the midst of great minds and leaders of the time. Situated in a square at the heart of the city near the Anichkov Palace, the Alexandrinsky Drama Theater and the Russian National Library, the statue features a regal Catherine standing tall with a scepter in one hand and an olive wreath in the other. Around the pedestal are great poets, generals, scientists and politicians, the very company she kept in her large court. Search and compare cheap flights to Russia.
Estatua de Policarpa Salavarrieta, Bogotá, Colombia
During the Colombian War of Independence, Policarpa Salavarrieta Ríos used her skills as a seamstress to gain entry to the homes of Royalists, where she collected valuable information for the revolutionaries. She also delivered food to prisons to share intelligence with captured soldiers. She was caught when information she had gathered fell into enemy hands. Rather than “confess” her way out of trouble by asking forgiveness for her actions from a priest, she went defiantly to her death. A statue in Plaza de Bolívar depicts her awaiting death by firing squad, arms tied behind her back and eyes wide open. Plaques around the base of the statue include quotes from some of her final rallying cries telling the crowd to fight on. She is viewed as a heroine of the war and a symbol of independence in Colombia, which is why this statue was unveiled in 1910 as part of the celebration of the first century of the country’s independence. The day of her death, November 14, is celebrated as the Day of Colombian Women. Search and compare cheap flights to Colombia.
Kate Sheppard Memorial, Christchurch, New Zealand
When counting New Zealand’s many claims to fame, make sure to include it was the first country to introduce universal suffrage, granting women the right to vote. The 1893 petition for the right to vote had more than 31,000 signatures. The group spearheading the seven-year process of championing the cause and gathering those names was led by Kate Sheppard. A 10-foot tall bronze sculpture shows Sheppard and fellow suffragette leaders Helen Nicol, Ada Wells, Harriet Morison, Meri Te Tai Mangakahia and Amey Daldy bringing the petition to Parliament in a cart. Unveiled on 1993, this monument along the Avon River, holds a time capsule of documents capturing women’s lives in 1993. The success of the right-to-vote movement in New Zealand made Sheppard and the other leaders role models for voting activists in countries around the world. Sheppard even returned to her native England in 1894 where she spent almost two years working with suffrage leaders and encouraging supporters with her speeches. In the early 1900s, she traveled again to England, the U.S. and Canada, meeting with women leaders as she went. Search and compare cheap flights to New Zealand.
(Main image: A Different Perspective)