By JOSHUA THOMAS
JOHNSTOWN — A large crowd assembled in Sir William Johnson Park on Thursday for the unveiling of a bronze statue of hometown hero Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
Prior to the reveal of the cloaked statue, a program featured a slate of musical performers and speakers.
The statue’s creation and installation — funded by approximately 150 donors from across the nation — has been several years in the making. COVID delayed the original unveiling and celebration, which was initially scheduled to take place in 2020.
Big Statues, of Provo, Utah, began crafting the sculpture of Elizabeth Cady Stanton about two years ago. The 1,000 hour, labor-intensive job — which first involved the fabrication of an interior armature onto which clay was hand-molded — included contributions from approximately 20 craftsman.
The seated statue depicts the suffrage icon at approximately 25 years old, gazing upon the Fulton County Court House where Cady-Stanton’s father presided over cases that stripped rights and belongings from women.
Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s Women’s Consortium Publicity Chair Elizabeth Russo explained that the Fulton County Court House is where Cady Stanton, born in Johnstown in 1815, “watched her father deal with cases where women lost all their property when they became widowed.”
Those experiences informed Cady Stanton’s 50-plus-year fight for women’s rights.
“After completing her education and working in her father’s law office, she learned of the many discriminatory laws the women of that time had to live with, and [she] made the decision to work at securing equal rights for women.” Johnstown Mayor Vern Jackson said. “She became a frequent speaker on women’s rights and was instrumental in securing the passage of legislation granting married women property rights in 1848 here in New York state.”
He noted Cady Stanton’s efforts also helped produce new legislation in 1860 granting married women the rights to their wages and equal guardianship of their children.
Coline Jenkins, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s great-great-granddaughter, spoke during Thursday’s event. Jenkins noted her line of descent features many accomplished women, including Elizabeth’s daughter Harriot Stanton Blatch, who followed in her mother’s footsteps, fighting to secure equal rights for women. Harriot mothered Nora Stanton Barney, the first female civil engineer to graduate from Cornell University in 1905. Nora had Jenkins’ mother, Rhoda Jenkins, an architect.
Highlighting a question she’d heard posed in the past — “What did Elizabeth Cady Stanton do for democracy?” — Jenkins stated, “She connected women and law.”
“Elizabeth is a radical,” Jenkins said. One of her life’s major goals was to secure women “the right to vote elective franchise.”
“Elizabeth stood fast on the vote,” she said, “because that’s the fundamental right of citizenship. Without that, you have no voice.”
Sarah Slingerland — the first and only female mayor in Johnstown’s history — said “It is an honor to be here today to celebrate Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s legacy, but also her inspiration. She planted the seeds of inspiration for social justice, and also women’s leadership.”
Slingerland implored the crowd to consider Cady Stanton’s enduring legacy, asking, “Can you imagine something so significant that people are still celebrating it 100 years later?”
Attending Thursday’s event on behalf of Governor Kathy Hochul was Matthew McMorrow, presenting a proclamation issued in honor of Women’s Equality Day. The proclamation — one of the first issued by Hochul as governor — expressed that 13 state landmarks, including several in Albany, would be lit gold and purple in celebration of the important occasion.