Carving a place for women on statues

If you were to count the statues in your local town, village or city, how many would you find that represent women?

Despite women making up more than half of the population of Europe, most of the statues you come across commemorate the lives of men.

Many statues of women that do exist tend to depict women as a concept – used for aesthetic or allegorical purposes – rather than specific female historical figures or their achievements.

Goddesses

The world of religion has always given us female statues – just think of Greek and Roman goddesses like Aphrodite, Venus and Minerva. And many Christian statues exist of female saints and, in particular, Mary, mother of Jesus.

Royal women

But even though you maybe need to look a bit harder to find statuesque examples of real, named and notable women, there are some wonderful examples.

In many countries, royal women are popular. For example, it’s estimated that nearly half of the statutes depicting women in the UK are of Queen Victoria, as well as other queens like Queen Louise, Catherine the Great, Empress Josephine and more.

Female icons

In France, many statues depict Joan of Arc, such as these examples from Paris, Saint Etienne and Orleans

In Amsterdam, you can find statues of a queen (Wilhelmina), a diarist (Anne Frank) and a singer (Tante Leen).

three statues of women in Amsterdam

Further afield, we find actors such as Wenche Foss in Oslo, poets and writers like Agnieszka Osiecka in Warsaw and nurses such as Edith Cavell in London depicted on statues.

Carving a place for female statues

But overall, women are still in the minority on statues. Now, some organisations and projects like ArtUK are documenting how many statues commemorate women and those like Invisible Women and Erect More Women are trying to make a change by campaigning for more statues commemorating women’s achievements.

Tell us about your area

Which women are commemorated by statues where you live? And which women would you like to see immortalised in statue form? Comment below or tweet us @europeanaeu

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

Feature image: Queen Louise, Erdmann Encke, KU Leuven, CC BY-NC

10 thoughts on “Carving a place for women on statues

  1. I live in Dublin, Ireland. There is a great piece in St Stephens Green of Constance Markievicz (Irish politician, revolutionary, nationalist, suffragette and socialist – See here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Constance_Markievicz#/media/File:Constance_Markiewicz_in_st_stephens_green.JPG)

    Also, a great statue of a fictional character called Molly Malone who sang about “cockles and mussels, alive alive O”, see here -https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Molly_Malone#/media/File:Molmalone.jpg

    By far my favourite is of 2 women taking a break while shopping – http://www.kuriositas.com/2013/03/the-statues-of-dublin-and-their.html

    Regards, Eric

  2. I too live in Dublin.
    “The Complete Guide to the Statues and Sculptures of Dublin City” by Neal Doherty was published in 2015 (Orpen Press). It covers 253 public sculptures.
    Of those representing female figures, there are 48; 8 are of specific historic persons.
    Of those representing male figures, there are 93; 68 are of specific historic figures.
    Most definitely an imbalance.
    Eric mentions the sculpture of two women taking a break – this is one I also particularly like. It is called “Meeting Place”, by Jakki McKenna, 1988.
    Perhaps some other cities and towns and local areas in Europe have publications (in print or on-line) similar to Doherty’s book. It would be difficult in a historic city like Rome!

  3. I live in the United States, in Utah. Last year our legislature determined that a statue of Martha Hughes Cannon, the first female state senator in America (1896), will become next year one of the two statues representing Utah in the United State’s National Statuary Hall. A small but highly visible step in bringing women into the world of commemorative statuary.

  4. Interesante es la historia de Audrey Munson: modelo de infinidad de estatuas en Estados Unidos, alegóricas casi todas ellas. Desde el monumento USS Maine en Nueva York o la efigie de la Biblioteca Pública de Nueva York.

  5. Goodmorning,

    My name is Pavlos Demertzis-Bouboulis and I live on the island of Spetses in Greece, where there are statues of 3 different feminine figures.
    There are 4 Statues of Laskarina Bouboulina (1771-1825), a national heroine and naval commander during the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman Empire in 1821, and until recently, the first and only woman in world naval history to be awarded the title of Admiral. One statue of Lela Karagianni (1898-1944), a national heroine of the Greek Resistance during the Nazi occupation of Greece and also a great grand daughter of Bouboulina. We can send you photos of all the statues.
    More info about both women can be found at:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laskarina_Bouboulina
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lela_Karagianni
    You may also connect with The Bouboulina Museum on Spetses island via our Facebook and Instagram accounts:
    https://web.facebook.com/BouboulinasMuseum/
    https://www.instagram.com/bouboulinamuseum/
    The museum’s website is currently under construction and will go live very soon.

    Last but not least one statue of the mythical Mermaid of Greek mythology, sister of Alexander the Great.
    Find photo here: http://www.greece.com/photos/destinations//Photo/Destinations/Saronic_Islands/Marmaid_sculpture_-_Spetses_Island/79038487

    Spetses also has another famous female figure, Eleni Boukouri-Altamoura (1821-1900). She is famous not as only as being the first female artist in Greece but also for disguising herself as a man in order to study Fine Arts in Italy. Unfortunately there is no statue of her yet. More info at:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleni_Boukoura-Altamoura

    Six statues in total! Not bad for small Greek island!!

    Thank you for the space and your initiative to feature inspiring women in history!

  6. Hi from Portugal,

    I live in Coimbra, the famous university town, now a UNESCO Heritage Site, too.
    Around here, we have “Monumento ao Fado” and “Tricana de Coimbra” , Inês de Castro, Isabel de Aragão, Maria Marrafa, Domitília Carvalho, Regina Quintanilha and also Princesa Cindazunda. These include statues of common women as well as from royalty, whose popularity has remained throughout time, all closely connected to our town and its culture.

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