Dr. Lynette Long represented EVE at the press conference in Annapolis today announcing the announcing the introduction of the Harriet Tubman Statue bill in the Maryland State Legislature.
The bill (House Bill 455/Senate Bill 351), which is sponsored by Delegate Susan C. Lee and Senator Catherine Pugh, authorizes a statue of Harriet Tubman to be placed in National Statuary Hall representing Maryland. The bill calls for the existing statue of John Hanson to be returned to Annapolis.
The Harriet Tubman Statue Project was initiated last year by EVE as part of our Statuary Hall project. We enlisted the help of Maryland NOW to partner with us as co-sponsors of the Tubman campaign. EVE and Maryland NOW began approaching lawmakers last fall about sponsoring the legislation; Delegate Lee and Senator Pugh agreed to introduce the bill, and helped find many other co-sponsors.
The bill is supported by Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Attorney General Douglas Gansler, the National Organization for Women (NOW), the National Congress of Black Women, Inc., the NAACP of Maryland, the Maryland General Assembly’s Women’s Caucus, the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, and many others.
Both Dr. Long, the president of EVE, and Linda Mahoney, the president of Maryland NOW, spoke at the press conference, as did Delegate Lee, Senator Pugh, and the representatives of several other organizations.
The text of Dr. Long’s remarks follow:
I am Dr. Lynette Long. I’m the founder and President of Equal Visibility Everywhere, an organization whose mission is increasing the number of women represented in our nation’s symbols, icons, and statues. I am also a licensed psychologist in the state of Maryland. I am here today to support the replacement of the statue of John Hanson with a statue of Harriet Tubman in National Statuary Hall.
National Statuary Hall was established in 1864 by an act of Congress. By law, each state is authorized to furnish two statues of citizens who are “illustrious for their historic renown or for distinguished civic or military services. “ Harriet Tubman certainly fits that description. She was an abolitionist, a union spy, a suffragist, and a great Marylander who risked her own life countless times to save the lives of others. I urge the State of Maryland to put Harriet Tubman in National Statuary Hall, not only to honor her personal achievements, but also as an inspiration and role model for the next generation of girls.
Our nation’s Capitol is the symbol of our democracy. In a nation where we believe that anyone can accomplish anything, our government systematically sends the unmistakable message to girls and women that their contributions to our country’s history were insignificant. The Capitol frieze surrounding the Rotunda depicts the history of the United States from its inception to the discovery of flight, and yet there is only one woman in the entire frieze: Pocahontas. The enormous paintings that surround the Rotunda celebrate key moments in our nation’s history, and yet there is only one woman depicted in those paintings: Pocahontas. In Statuary Hall itself there is only one woman out of 38 statues, and only 9 women in the entire Collection of 100 statues displayed throughout the building.
When sexism is blatant and overt, it’s easy to detect and defend against. But “sins of omission” can be even more damaging since they are subtle, insidious, and persistent. The absence of women in the Capitol sends the message that this is a democracy of men, by men, and for men. It tells the millions of girls who visit the Capitol, “you’re not part of this story.” In psychology, we know the visual overrides the verbal and what you see is more powerful than what you hear. We’d like our daughters to believe they can be anything they want, but they don’t hear “yes you can” when all they see is “no you can’t.”
The most powerful messages are verbally and visually congruent. It’s time to send young girls a clear message by rewriting women who have been written out of history back into history. It’s time for the statues in National Statuary Hall to not only represent great Americans, but to more accurately represent the demographics of America. Otherwise, I would urge the Architect of the Capitol to put a sign outside the new Capitol Visitor Center that reads, WARNING: THIS TOUR MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR DAUGHTER’S PSYCHOLOGICAL HEALTH.