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Historic event in Central Park involves Weirton native

A DAY TO REMEMBER, CELEBRATE — In this photo provided by Weirton native Namita Luthra and taken by NYC Parks Department’s Daniel Avila, Luthra participated in the unveiling ceremony held Aug. 26 in New York’s Central Park for Monumental Women’s statue depicting women’s rights pioneers Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

NEW YORK — A bronze statue depicting women’s rights pioneers Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony was unveiled in Central Park on Aug. 26, becoming the 167-year-old park’s first monument honoring historical heroines.

And Weirton native and women’s rights advocate Namita Luthra of New York City was a part of that, participating not only in the ceremony itself but in the movement behind it.

The 14-foot-tall, 36-ton monument to the three 19th century advocates was dedicated on what was the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the amendment enabling women to vote.

Luthra is the daughter of Drs. Sucheta and J.K. Luthra of Weirton and serves on the board of a nonprofit called Monumental Women, the catalyst behind the monument. After earning a degree at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, Luthra moved to New York City, where she resides with her husband and two children.

The unveiling was live-streamed Aug. 26 on the Monumental Women website at www.monumentalwomen.org., Facebook and YouTube. Among the attendees and participants was former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The statue was conceived, created and funded by Monumental Women, an all-volunteer-led nonprofit made up of women’s rights advocates, historians and community leaders. Luthra serves as a director with Monumental Women, which was established in 2014 with an initial goal to “break the bronze ceiling” and create the first statue of real women in the park whose female offerings thus far have been limited to Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose, Juliet with Romeo, witches, nymphs and angels, according to Monumental Women’s website.

Its other goals are cited as “increasing awareness and appreciation of women’s history through a nationwide education campaign and challenging municipalities across the country to rethink the past and reshape the future by including tributes in their public spaces to the diverse women who helped create and inspire those cities.”

Luthra first learned about the work of Monumental Women through newspaper articles about Girl Scout troops in New York City raising money for the statue. She took the idea to her daughter’s Girl Scout troop, which sold Girl Scout cookies to raise money for Monumental Women. They donated $2,000, attended events and eventually met the sculptor, Meredith Bergmann. Several girls of the Girl Scout Troops who raised money for the monument were on hand at the unveiling, including Luthra’s 13-year-old daughter, Jaya Shri. She was quoted in an Associated Press article about the unveiling as having said, “I think it will inspire a lot of little girls to go out and do what they want to do. It’s really amazing.”

“This is a collection of statues of great men who accomplished great things, and the fact that there were no statues of women seemed to mean that the accomplishments of women were meaningless, certainly not worthy of a statue,” sculptor Meredith Bergmann said at the unveiling. “So it’s long overdue, and it’s wonderful that these three great and inspiring and incredibly hardworking activist women are here in Central Park and they can inspire us to continue to fight for equal rights, for fairness and for justice for women, for minority groups, for people of color, for everyone now.”

Luthra noted that Monumental Women “wants to be sure that it’s known that our commitment to diversity and inclusion was there from the start and the long scroll with diverse suffragists’ names and quotations leading to a ballot box was one way to show that. Having Sojourner Truth at the table now is fitting and thrills us. In Central Park it’s the first monument of women, the first African American, and the first showing women working together to right a wrong.”

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