The first in-person meeting Sen. Amy Klobuchar had during the pandemic was with the daughter and granddaughter of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and that pow-wow spurred a timely idea: the U.S. Capitol needs a statue of the “notorious RBG.” And not just her, but Sandra Day O’Connor as well.
The Capitol’s existing collection includes Helen Keller, Sacagawea, Rosa Parks, and Sojourner Truth.
Klobuchar was motivated by the obvious dearth of women represented at the Capitol. “You don’t have to have a Ph.D. to walk around here and think, ‘Huh, they’re all men,’ ” Klobuchar told NPR. “And that’s just wrong.”
The numbers tell the story. The Capitol has 266 sculptures—including statues, busts,and monuments—honoring notable figures in history. Of those, only 14 are of women. Great! Let’s honor slave-owning, misogynistic men, but forget the half of the population that helped build the country.
Klobuchar has enlisted a bipartisan group of lawmakers to make the count more equitable and introduced new legislation last week to add statues of the first two women to sit on the Supreme Court.
Historical Women Figures: Getting the Message
“When you get visited by Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s daughter and granddaughter…you kind of don’t forget it,” Klobuchar says.
Now, 20 senators, including more than a dozen Democrats and three Republicans, are on board. GOP Sens. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine and Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia have signed on so far.
The Capitol’s existing collection includes sculptures of historic figures such as Helen Keller, Sacagawea, Rosa Parks, and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.
Certainly Ginsburg and O’Connor will fit right in. “Obviously they are pioneers, and I think it would send a great message to all the young girls who go through the Capitol,” Capito says. Ginsburg expressed similar ideas back in 1975. “And when you see women doing so many different things in the law,” Ginsburg told NPR, “then you believe, well, maybe there’ll be a place for me, too.”
Bad Men, Good Women
Some of the Confederates are already in the process of being replaced with women.
As the public is re-assessing their statuary across the country, the honorees in the Capitol are under scrutiny. Some of the Confederates and other controversial figures are already in the process of being replaced with women, which would bring the 14 featured today to at least 20.
For example, the Capitol’s National Statuary Hall collection, which is comprised of 100 statues—two from each of the 50 states—will see Virginia replace its statue of the Confederate General Robert E. Lee with civil rights icon Barbara Johns.
“I would say that the status of some of the statues is sort of in flux,” Capito says. “If we replace one of our statues, [I hope they] would consider one of our strong females.” Capito is pushing for the late NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson, immortalized in the 2016 film Hidden Figures, for a place of honor. We applaud that move.