The Trailblazing Women of WNY Monument Project
The Trailblazing Women of Western New York Monument Project was initiated in 2017 by the Erie County Commission on the Status of Women in conjunction with the University at Buffalo Gender Institute. The purpose of the project is to highlight and celebrate the significant contribution of women in the development of this region and the country.
In the past twenty years, countries throughout the world have been realizing the importance of memorializing the significant contributions made by women to their societies. For centuries, these contributions had gone unacknowledged, resulting in very few monuments to women compared to those of men in our built environment. At present, 8% of our monuments in the United States honor women and in Buffalo, only 2% do so.
Erie County is seizing an opportunity to celebrate the contributions of trailblazing women from this region, elevating their contributions to the national stage and demonstrating to our citizens the importance of discovering these hidden histories. Long after the members of our steering committee are gone this project will live on for future generations to appreciate. We will be leaving a legacy that not only unearths the hidden histories of women, but also solidifies who we are as a community, and what we value.
To kick off this project three trailblazing leaders from Western New York will be placed at Old County Hall, located at 100 Franklin Street.
- Louise Blanchard Bethune, FAIA, 1856-1913
The first professional woman architect in the United States, Louise Blanchard Bethune was a national leader in the architectural profession during the Gilded Age. A staunch advocate for equal pay for equal work, Bethune advocated for co-education and design excellence in educational design. She was the architect of the Hotel Lafayette.
- Mary Burnett Talbert, 1866-1923
An internationally respected human and civil rights leader, Mary Burnett Talbert was an anti-lynching activist, suffragist, preservationist and educator. She was an early member of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, which she helped organize in addition to the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
- Geraldine “Gawo:sid-Tah” Green 1929-2009
A devote educator of her Haudenosaunee traditions, Sid-tah was one of the venerable fluent speakers of the Seneca language who shared her knowledge throughout the region, nationally and internationally. She was a leader in the Newtown longhouse, serving as head women’s faithkeeper for the animal clans.
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz and the Erie County Legislature have committed over $600,000 to support this project. Site design work has begun at Old County Hall, where the first three statues will be located.
In addition to the Erie County support, we have received funding from Seneca Gaming Corporation, the Baird Foundation and additional individual and corporate donations totaling approximately $50,000.
After engaging in a national request for proposal process, two artists have been selected to create each of our three inaugural Trailblazing Women. Vinnie Bagwell will create Mary Talbert and Jiwoong Cheh will create Geraldine “Gawo:sid-Tah” Green and Louise Bethune.
Not only will this project highlight these amazing women and their contributions to Western New York, but the entire project will serve as a tourism draw to the entire Western New York area. These three statues are only the beginning of an ambitious project that will honor Western New York’s outstanding women with monuments, plaques and a robust website that will offer educational information on the accomplishments of the women featured. As the Trail grows throughout the region the impact on tourism will be realized in hospitality dollars throughout Western New York.
A project to place monuments to trailblazing women leaders in Western New York.