Three years ago, when Louisville native Asya Akca left town to attend the University of Chicago, there were no public monuments of women in the city.
Prior to moving, Akca remembered making a video with the group Louisville Girls Leadership in which she asked public officials and leaders about their favorite city monument: Thomas Jefferson and Henry Clay were popular responses.
Then, the same group was asked about their favorite city monument of a woman. The respondents were pretty quiet at that point.
And for good reason. It would be another year before Louisville saw its first public monument of a woman — a statue of Mother Catherine Spalding that was installed in 2015 outside the Cathedral of the Assumption.
Louisville isn’t alone in its lack of public monuments of women; according to a report by The Washington Post, less than eight percent of public outdoor sculptures of individuals in the United States are of women.
“It just always upset me,” Akca said. “I always believed that if young girls had role models that they could look up to — really strong female role models or individuals that they could envision — that they would be inspired to pursue similar roles.”
So, Akca decided to do something about it.
She, along with fellow University of Chicago student Shae Omonijo, founded the organization “Monumental Women,” which raises funds for public statues of historic women that can be erected on campuses and in communities.
The group is installing its first statue this week on the University of Chicago campus. It will be of Dr. Georgiana Rose Simpson, one of the first African-American women to earn a Ph.D. in the United States.
Akca hopes the mission of “Monumental Women” will inspire other college campuses and cities to make similar strides — especially as public memorials to monuments, including those of the Confederacy, become topics of national discussion and reflection.
“The conversation about replacing those [monuments] with others that share a more full picture of our history and what happened is really critical,” Akca said. “And I hope we can continue that conversation.”
Featured Image: Monumental Women co-founders Asya Aka and Shae Omonijo.