Chicago will get one of its first statues of a notable woman in 2017 when a bronze bust of Georgiana Simpson — one of the first African-American women to receive a Ph.D. — is erected at the University of Chicago. It’s the first monument of its kind on the campus as well.
“As you walk around any city in the U.S., it’s very hard to see monuments that honor influential females,” said Asya Akca, the U of C political science student who came up with the idea.
As WBEZ previously reported, there are 48 statues of historically significant men in Chicago’s public parks, including monuments to explorer Leif Ericson, president Abraham Lincoln and civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. But there are no statues or busts of notable women. As the Washington Post pointed out a few years ago, less than eight percent of the public outdoor sculptures of individuals in the United States are of women.
The location of the bust coming to the University of Chicago campus has a bit of poetic justice. It will be located in the Reynolds Club, a building that now acts serves as a kind of student union but was once a club specifically reserved for white men.
“I think it’s very significant to have Dr. Georgiana Simpson’s bust in that building to symbolize not only the different triumphs, but also to have a more unifying factor that Georgiana Simpson’s history is as important as the other alumni that we honor,” said Shae Omonijo, another U of C political science student working on bringing the sculpture to campus.
Simpson attended the University of Chicago as an undergraduate from 1907 to 1911 and earned a Ph.D. in German philology from the school in 1921.
As an African-American woman, she faced housing discrimination and racism as she pursued her degree.
“She was immediately met with a lot of criticism,” Omonijo said. “A lot of the students, specifically white students were not comfortable with having an African American woman living in the same room, dorm, building as them.”
The bust will be installed in early 2017.
A previous version of this story misnamed the building that will house the new statue. It is called Reynolds Club.