Statues can be found all over Columbus. There’s Arnold Schwarzenegger in front of the Greater Columbus Convention Center, William Oxley Thompson by Ohio State University's main library, and of course the statue of Christopher Columbus himself in front of City Hall.
There is a statue of German writer Friedrich Schiller in Schiller Park and a bust of philanthropist Lincoln Goodale in Goodale Park. There's one thing all these statues have in common: they're all men.
If you're looking for a statue of a woman, you can find those as well. But more often than not, those sculptures have titles like “Mother” or “Peace.” They take inspiration from the female form, rather than real-life women.
Carol Branscomb recently wrote into WOSU’s Curious Cbus project to ask: Is there a public statue of a woman - an actual historic person, not just the female form - in Columbus?
A comprehensive database of statues in the city does not exist, but after checking with city, state and university officials, WOSU found one – and only one.
Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock
The only public statue of an actual woman in Columbus is a bronze likeness of Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock, the first woman to fly solo around the world. The statue, designed by local artist Renate Burgyan Fackler, is appropriately displayed inside John Glenn Columbus International Airport.
Born in Newark, Ohio, Mock graduated from Ohio State with a degree in aeronautical engineering. She married Russell Mock in 1945, settled in Bexley and raised three children.
Mock got her pilot’s license in 1957 and several years later started discussing the idea of an around-the-world vacation with her husband. When she found out that another female pilot was planning her own trip, she decided to make her own attempt to be the first.
On March 19, 1964, Mock took off from Port Columbus Airport in an 11-year-old single-engine Cessna airplane named “The Spirit of Columbus.” When she touched down back in Columbus 19 days later, she had set several aviation records in addition to being the first woman to fly solo around the world.
For her accomplishments, Mock was awarded the Gold Medal Award from President Lyndon B. Johnson, and wrote about the journey in 1970 in the book "Three-Eight Charlie."
Mock's statue was unveiled on April 17, 2014, on the 50th anniversary of her historic flight. She died a few months later, at 88 years old.
Depending on your perspective, though, there is potentially one other public statue of a woman in Columbus.
Outside the Ohio Statehouse, there is a monument titled “These Are My Jewels” that honors Ohio’s military and political leaders for their service during the Civil War. Erected in 1893, the monument features a base with seven statues of real men (Ulysses S. Grant, Philip S. Sheridan, Edwin McMasters Stanton, James A. Garfield, Rutherford B. Hayes, Salmon P. Chase and William Tecumseh Sherman).
Above the seven men is a female figure called Cornelia. Technically, Cornelia was a real person from an influential political family in ancient Roman, but her inclusion is really symbolic.
According to the Statehouse website, the monument was the idea of General Roeliff Brinkerhoff, who was president of the Ohio Archeological and Historical Society. He worked with sculptor Levi Tucker Scofield on the concept. For the memorial, Cornelia represents the state of Ohio rather than the actual woman from Roman history.
So, considering Cornelia lived over 2,000 years ago and really has nothing to do with Ohio, many don’t consider it as a statue of a historic figure.
In fact, because this year marks the 100 year anniversary of women gaining the right to vote in the U.S., the Ohio Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission is advocating for a new monument at the Statehouse to honor the women who fought for equal voting rights.
Since there is only one statue of a historical woman in Columbus, WOSU wanted to know: What women would be good candidates for that honor, if a new statue were to be commissioned?
After consulting with local historians and putting a call out on social media, we put together a list of notable women from Central Ohio’s past and present for consideration:
- Nancy Wilson
- Mary Katherine Campbell Townley
- Kathryn D. Sullivan
- Aminah Robinson
- Evangeline Reams
- Hannah Neil
- Mayme Moore
- Golda Edmonston
Grammy award-winning vocalist Nancy Sue Wilson was born in Chillicothe, Ohio in 1937. Her family later moved to Columbus where she attended West High School. At 15, she won a talent competition held by local TV station WTVN, and began singing at local clubs around the city. After a year at Central State College, she left to pursue a career in show business.
Wilson toured and recorded with Rusty Bryant’s Carolyn Club Big Band for many years before moving to New York City. Once there, she achieved quick success, getting signed to Capitol Records and collaborating with jazz greats such as Cannonball Adderley.
In the 1960s, Wilson had several hit singles, including "(You Don't Know) How Glad I Am," which broke the Billboard Top 40 and won her first Grammy. She began performing and acting on television programs such as “The Ed Sullivan Show,” “The Carol Burnett Show,” and “Hawaii Five-O.” She also had her own Emmy Award-winning variety series, "The Nancy Wilson Show," on NBC.
Outside of entertainment, Wilson was known as an advocate for civil rights, and took part in the 1965 protest march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala. with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
She hosted the award-winning NPR program “Jazz Profiles” from 1995-2002 and won two more Grammys for Vocal Jazz Album in 2005 and 2007. She gave her last performance in 2011 at Ohio University, and passed away in 2018.
Mary Katherine Campbell Townley
Columbus native Mary Katherine Campbell won the Miss Columbus pageant in 1922 at the age of 16. The East High School graduate went on to compete in Atlantic City along with other young women from around the county in the second-ever Miss America pageant.
She won the crown that year and returned in 1923 to win again. She is the only woman ever to win the crown twice. After she almost won again for the third time in 1924, the Miss America Organization changed the rules so that each contestant could only win the title once.
Though she was offered opportunities in the entertainment industry, she ultimately chose a quieter life. She studied art at Ohio State and Ohio Wesleyan University and married Frederick Townley, a DuPont executive.
According to The City of Columbus Hall of Fame, Mary Katherine Campbell Townley was “shy and embarrassed about her reign as Miss America... rarely discussed it and many of her friends in adult life never knew she wore the coveted crown.”
Kathryn D. Sullivan
Astronaut and scientist Kathryn Sullivan, among her numerous accomplishments, was the first American woman to walk in space. Though she was born in New Jersey and raised in California, she has very strong ties to Columbus, having lived and worked here for decades.
After a career at NASA where she flew on three shuttle missions, including the launch of the Hubble Space Telescope, Sullivan worked as chief scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
From 1996-2006, she served as president and CEO of COSI, Columbus' science museum. While there, she oversaw the museum’s move to its current riverfront location and the construction of the futuristic design that sits around the original architecture of the Central High School building.
In 2006, she was named the first director of the Battelle Center for Science and Technology Policy at Ohio State's John Glenn School of Public Affairs. She left that position in 2011 to again work at NOAA during the Obama administration.
Renowned artist and Columbus native Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson was born in 1940. She was raised in Poindexter Village, one of the first federally funded housing developments in the country. That community and the surrounding neighborhood became a focus of much of her work. She adopted the name Aminah after a trip to Africa in 1979.
Robinson’s creativity was encouraged by her father at a young age. She enrolled as an art student at Columbus College of Art and Design and also studied at Ohio State.
After getting married, she spent several years away from Ohio but returned after her divorce in 1971 and began teaching at the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department. She struggled financially for many years, trying to make ends meet with her art and teaching. A commission for a mural from the Columbus Metropolitan Library gave her the freedom to live as a full-time artist.
Robinson worked in many different mediums but is perhaps best known for large pieces made from painted fabric and other found objects. Her art often focused on her own heritage and African American history. She is credited with helping to preserve the stories of African Americans in Columbus.
In 2004, she was awarded the prestigious MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship, which cited her for "celebrating themes of family, ancestry and the grandeur of simple objects in drawings, paintings, and large-scale, mixed-media assemblages."
Robinson passed away in 2015 at the age of 75. Her estate was left to the Columbus Museum of Art, which recently won a grant to restore her east side home to use for its artists' residency program.
Learn more about Aminah Robinson in this WOSU TV "Columbus Neighborhoods" segment.
Social worker Evangeline Reams dedicated her life to caring for the less fortunate, especially young pregnant women of Columbus who were often shunned by their families and left destitute.
Born to a Quaker family in Zanesfield, Ohio, Reams felt called to serve the poor at the age of 16. Her parents refused to let her travel to Columbus at such a young age, but in 1900, at the age of 19, she made her way to the city and began work at the Canal Street Mission.
Compelled by the need she saw in the community, Reams raised the funds to open the Friends Rescue Home in 1905. It was a safe haven for unwed mothers to live safely, access education and give birth.
A decade later, Reams’ focus turned from the day-to-day of running the house to fundraising. The house in the Hilltop neighborhood was at full capacity and was turning woman away, so Reams launched a campaign to raise money for a new building.
The new larger house was established in 1918 and Reams went on speaking tours around the country to raise funds to keep it running. Tragically, Reams died in a traffic accident while on such a tour in 1931. The Friends Rescue Home continued to serve the Columbus community until 1979.
Learn more about Evangeline Reams in this WOSU TV "Columbus Neighborhoods" segment.
Philanthropist Hannah Neil was dedicated to helping the less fortunate and was the driving force behind the oldest and longest-running charity in the city.
Married to William Neil, who made his fortune in the stagecoach business, Hannah Neil had a reputation for selflessness. Local histories report that she regularly collected food to distribute during the winter months, and it’s also said that she gave away much of her own clothing.
After the construction of the National Road in 1837, new waves of settlers began traveling through Columbus. Seeing the plight of these families, especially the children, Neil founded a school focused on caring for poor children and teaching them skills. The Industrial School Association, run by Hannah and a small group of women, started in 1858.
A decade later, the organization expanded to meet the needs of the increasing population of homeless women and children in the area. It moved to a larger building on Main Street that still stands today.
The school was renamed the Hannah Neil Mission and Home for the Friendless after Neils’s death by pneumonia in 1868.
In addition to her work at the school, Neil was also one of the first members of the Columbus Female Benevolent Society, the oldest active charity in Columbus.
The farm, where Neil and her husband lived, is now the home of Ohio State. Neil Avenue is named after them.
Learn more about Hannah Neil in this WOSU TV "Columbus Neighborhoods" segment.
Civil rights activist and community leader Mayme Moore dedicated her life to serving her community and was known as the “mother” of the Columbus NAACP.
Moore moved to Columbus with her family in 1938 and quickly got involved with local African American organizations in the segregated city.
As a NAACP member, she chaired committees, helped organize protests and lobbied at the Ohio General Assembly to end racial discrimination. She also traveled around the country to work for civil rights as vice president of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs.
Moore was active in organizing the 1963 March on Washington and was on the dais when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., gave his iconic “I Have A Dream” speech.
Moore died in 1978 at the age of 85. Her grandson is former state Rep. Otto Beatty Jr. and her great-granddaughter is Laurel Beatty Blunt, a judge with the Ohio Tenth District Court of Appeals.
The city park next to the King Arts Complex in the King Lincoln District is named after Moore.
Politician and women's rights advocate Golda Edmonston was a lifelong public servant who worked in both the local and state government.
Born in 1888 in Mount Sterling, Ohio, Edmonston’s family had strong roots in the state. Her great-great-grandfather, Samuel Myers, served in the Ohio General Assembly in the early 1800s.
She went to North High School and Capitol College of Oratory and Music in Columbus. Edmonston was active in the suffragette movement for a woman's right to vote, and was passionate about making sure all citizens exercised their voting rights.
Edmonston’s political career began in state government, where she served several terms in the Ohio House of Representatives in the 1940-50s. After that, she was elected to Columbus City Council and served from 1959-1967.
At the age of 74, she became the first female Columbus Council president and became acting mayor for a time.
During her life, Edmonston was a strong advocate for equal rights, equal pay and women being actively involved in government decision making. She died in 1978.
Who Should Be Immortalized In Bronze?
The above list of women deserving a statue is by no means exhaustive. Other suggestions WOSU received included: Cordelia Elizabeth "Betty" Cook, a WWII combat nurse and the first woman to win both the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart; Alice Schille, world-renowned post-impressionist painter; Beverly D'Angelo, Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated actress; and Simone Biles, World Champion gymnast and Olympic gold medalist.
But we want to hear from you. Which of those women do you think should be honored with a statue in Columbus?
Or do you have another suggestion for a woman we missed? Let us know in the form below.
Do you have a question about Central Ohio's history or culture? Ask WOSU as part of our Curious Cbus project and we may investigate the answer.