Elizabeth Cady Stanton statue to be unveiled Thursday

PHOTOGRAPHER:
Pictured is a rendering of the bronze statue of suffragist Elizabeth Cady Stanton that has been commissioned by the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Women’s Consortium. Stanton was born and raised in Johnstown. The statue will be erected in the Sir William Johnson Park on West Main Street in 2020 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution that gave all women the right to vote. An anonymous donor has offered to give up to $10,000 in matching funds to help pay for the statue, which will cost $75,000. To date, more than $50,000 has been raised. (Photo submitted)

By JOSH THOMAS

The Leader-Herald

JOHNSTOWN — On Thursday afternoon, a statue of Elizabeth Cady Stanton — local author, lecturer, activist and chief philosopher of the women’s rights and suffrage movements — will be unveiled at Sir William Johnson Park.

The statue’s lead artist, Matt Glenn, will speak at the unveiling ceremony, which will take place from 4 to 7 p.m. at the park’s Charles Jenner Band Shell, located on West Main Street.

While the statue’s delivery and unveiling — which will celebrate Women’s Equality Day — was originally scheduled for 2020, COVID-19 delayed the celebration.

The Elizabeth Cady Stanton statue — seated on a bench to allow visitors to pose with the icon — depicts the legendary suffragette as she may have appeared while writing at her family home at the corner of Main and Market streets, where the Berkshire Bank now exists.

The sculpture was positioned deliberately, gazing upon the Fulton County Court House where Cady Stanton’s father was a judge, according to Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Women’s Consortium Publicity Chair Elizabeth Russo.

The court house, Russo pointed out, “is where Elizabeth,” born in Johnstown in 1815, “watched her father deal with cases where women lost all their property when they became widowed.”

“She felt that was not right,” Russo said of Cady Stanton, noting that she subsequently set out to change such laws.

Though Russo said the idea to install a statue of Elizabeth Cady Stanton in her birthplace was one that Elizabeth Cady Stanton Women’s Consortium President Helen Martin fostered for quite some time, the piece’s physical creation began about two years ago.

The 1,000 hour job by Big Statues — which is located in Provo, Utah — facilitated contributions from approximately 20 craftsman.

Before that, the process began with the accumulation of historical information. Glenn was provided drawings and photos of Cady Stanton, which were incorporated into the artwork’s design.

As the statue depicts the famous suffragette at 25-years-old, a challenge existed, said Glenn, in “getting her likeness where it needed to be, because there are so few photos of her from the 1830’s.”

He explained that Cady Stanton’s likeness was basically reverse-engineered from photos of her as an older woman.

Also a challenge, he said, was depicting Cady Stanton’s nuanced expression.

The creation process took place across several stages, beginning with the crafting of an interior steel armature. Clay was added to the metal skeleton, with a block-in stage taking place before details were refined.

A mold of the statue — featuring hand sculpted details, including ruffles and fringe — was then made before the final piece was cast in bronze.

In the finished piece, a bouquet of flowers rests at Cady Stanton’s side. “They represent adoration, happiness and loyalty,” said Glenn, explaining that those attributes were “three components she was an example of.”

Added Glenn of the statue’s subject, “She gave her all and was incredibly loyal to everyone she came in contact with.”

The sculpture arrived in Johnstown on Tuesday, having departed from its creation space at Big Statues last week. A special crate had to be designed to contain the piece, which weighs about 1,000 pounds.

Russo said she feels the statue’s installation will be “very important,” in preserving and highlighting Johnstown’s rich history. “People who live here don’t even know she was born here,” Russo said of the beloved figure.

“The recognition wasn’t there,” explained Russo, and the consortium “thought that this town should be making a big deal,” of the famous suffragette’s contributions not only to the community, but to the world.

Glenn said that while he took joy from the sculpture’s creation process, his greatest satisfaction will be derived from the inspiration the piece provides. He pointed out, “The greatest joy will always be placing the sculpture and seeing the effect it has on future generations.”

“Elizabeth,” he explained, “was such an incredible woman and person in everything she did, and I have hope that this sculpture will influence generations to do good and look for opportunities to try and help those around us.”

in addition to comments by Glenn, Thursday’s speakers will include Coline Jenkins, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s great-great-granddaughter; Sarah Slingerland, former mayor of Johnstown; local historians Noel Levee and Samantha Hall-Saladino; and Thomas Ruller, New York State archivist.

Music will be provided throughout the event. Clare Wettemann will sing an original song about Elizabeth Cady Stanton, while the Rev. G.W. ‘Blake’ Blakesley — of Elizabeth’s church, the First Presbyterian Church of Johnstown — will perform suffrage songs on the banjo, with friends providing fiddle and whistle accompaniment.

Blakesley will also lead a sing-a-long of suffrage songs, copies of which will be distributed.

At 7 p.m., Sue Macy, author of the book “Wheels of Change,” will provide a presentation detailing the ways in which women gained freedom through bicycle riding.

Cady Stanton once commented, “The bicycle will inspire women with more courage, self-respect and self-reliance and make the next generation more vigorous of mind and body; for feeble mothers do not produce great statesmen, scientists and scholars.”

Macy’s presentation will be held at the sanctuary of St. John’s Episcopal Church, 1 N. Market St. The free, public speech is sponsored by the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Hometown Association, made possible by a Saratoga Arts Community Arts Grant.

Guests can bring a lawn chair or blanket, along with umbrella in case of rain.

Individuals not vaccinated against COVID-19 will be required to wear a mask.

Food trucks will provide refreshments, coordinated by the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth.

By Paul Wager