THE "Something Is Being Done" MONUMENT
ABOVE: Preliminary sketch: Something Is Being Done, a monument for Lexington, Massachusetts by Meredith Bergmann.
BELOW: Meredith Bergmann, artist.
January 6, 2022: LexSeeHer is excited to share the updated design sketch from sculptor Meredith Bergmann! Learn more about all of the honorees, who were selected following a 5 month open nomination period when community members were encouraged to nominate the women they felt were the most worthy of recognition.
Preliminary monument key - a guide to identifying the contributions made by Lexington women across time. This is a work in progress, as we strive to share many inspiring stories about women who have helped improve our community and country!
Essay - from Jessie Steigerwald, LexSeeHer President
Meredith Bergmann’s preliminary sketch for "Something Is Being Done!" recognizes contributions made by bold Lexington women who, when faced with injustice or seemingly insurmountable obstacles, determined that “Something Must Be Done.” Visitors will be welcomed to stand amidst these courageous women, draw strength from them, and help lead the future!
On April 19, 1775, Abigail Harrington famously declared “The reg’lars are out and something must be done” as she awakened Jonathan, her sleeping son, who was fifer for Lexington’s militia company. Here in the Birthplace of American Liberty, our monuments and memorials have historically celebrated men’s agency in the pursuit of liberty and freedom. It is time to properly recognize and celebrate “women’s work.”
“Something Is Being Done” recognizes women as powerful agents of change. They were literally Mothers of the Revolution; Abigail Harrington and Phebe Banister Burdoo serve to remind viewers that women gave birth to, raised and supported the men who are recognized for their service in the Revolution. In the years preceding the Battle of Lexington, despite being disempowered from owning property and outright excluded from voting, running for, or serving in office, women exercised political and economic agency. They made an impact through boycotts and acts of defiance, including the 1769 Spinning Match protest which was hosted by Anna Harrington. Women were believed to have joined the 1773 Lexington Tea Burning protest and took charge to carry out the boycott. Abigail Harrington and Ruth Buckman sustained the boycott by organizing, respectively, family meals and meals for visitors at Buckman Tavern.
In addition to oppression from the monarchy and patriarchy, Black women shouldered additional burdens of racism and, for some, enslavement. Enslaved women in Lexington could and did have their children taken away and sold as property. Margaret Tulip arrived in Lexington as a child, as other Black people did, and was considered property rather than a free person. Margaret Tulip was initially emancipated, but was then "unjustly taken" and enslaved again. Through determination, strength, and persistence, Margaret Tulip sued for her freedom in the courts in 1768 and won in 1770. Slavery remained legal in Massachusetts for more than a decade, and legal in America until 1865. The monument includes Cate Chester and Her Mother with a representation that marks the pain of family separation. Cate was separated from her family as a young child, and taken from Boston to Boxborough. She was enslaved throughout her childhood, and somehow managed to negotiate for her freedom and a piece of land. Cate came to Lexington just before the Revolution and married Prince Chester. They had two daughters while living in Town, and were paid for their spinning work. The Chesters moved back to Boxborough.
Women pursued liberty and justice in the 1800s as activists, authors, and educators, as well as through their relationships with friends and family. Mary Elizabeth Miles Bibb was the first African-American woman to graduate from the Normal School. She was a leader in education, journalism, and the abolitionist movement. Author and abolitionist Eliza Follen employed empathy to communicate moral messages to youth and adults. She encouraged Lexington women to become activists, telling Julia Robbins: “abolition is women’s work.” Julia Robbins supported abolition and woman suffrage. Her niece, Ellen Adelia Stone, shattered a local glass ceiling when she became the first woman in a local election to win a seat on Lexington's School Committee. Three generations of Wellingtons employed the power of petition, publicity, and fundraising for a woman’s right to vote. Caroline Wellington, a ‘granddaughter of the Revolution,’ supported local, state, and national efforts to enable women to vote. Women contributed socially, intellectually, financially, and culturally, which enriched civic associations across town.
In the 20th century, individual Lexington women continued to reach new heights, with aviator Peggy Kimball earning the highest pilot ratings available at the time. Many women’s achievements resulted from collaboration. Jean Fletcher and Sarah Pillsbury Harkness were founders of The Architects Collaborative who valued accessible design and sustainable practices. Expanded liberty presented new opportunities to seize, and women continued to address barriers to equality. Progress in achieving equal political representation remained slow. Though the town was incorporated in 1713, it was not until 1956 that Ruth Morey became the first woman elected to serve as a “Selectman.” Lexington went another 31 years before years before Margery Milne Battin became the first elected woman to serve as Town Moderator in 1987. Margery was instrumental in leading the evolution of Lexington's local government. Sylvia Ferrell-Jones pursued racial and gender justice throughout her entire life, and was recognized for the impact of her work with the Racial Amity Award in 2015. Educator and musician, Janet Haas channeled her talents and energy to benefit thousands of students in Lexington's Public Schools by teaching students from Kindergarten through high school self expression through the arts.
Bergmann includes representative figures: one marches on toward the future carrying a "Persist" sign, and another shares women's stories as she stands beside a fire. These figures recognize that young women are tomorrow's leaders, and the people who will continue the pursuit of liberty and equality when they see that "Something Must Be Done."
LexSeeHer Monument Timeline
Milestones in government approval process:
3/8/20: LexSeeHer launched with proposal for a privately funded monument to women in a highly visible and accessible location.
Summer 2020: Gathered signatures for Citizens Petition for Fall 2020 Special Town Meeting
Fall 2020: Brought Article 7 to Town Meeting
Nov. '20 - Jan '21 Pursued Plan A to locate a monument outside Cary Library
Feb. '21 - April '21: Developed Plan B to locate a monument on Visitors Center lawn
Spring -Summer 2021: Call to Artists, Founders Campaign
12/28/21: Commission on Disability voted unanimously in support of proposed monument, plaza and site
1/22: Monuments & Memorials Committee voted in support of budget threshold of 90%.
2/3/22: Center Committee voted unanimously in support of proposed monument.
2/10/22: Historic Districts Commission voted in favor of Certificate of Appropriateness with request for follow-up on specific issue, including axial rotation.
2/14/22: LexSeeHer and HDC liaison held site visit to review axial rotation.
3/1/22: LexSeeHer provided presentation at Council for the Arts.
3/31/22: Tourism Committee votes in support of monument but opposes sitting at "Site 15".
4/7/22: Monuments & Memorials Committee takes two votes (a) in support of monument (b) not in favor of Site 15. Chair suggests LexSeeHer find "less offensive" site.
April - May Site Visits
Gathering input on possible alternate sites.
May / June: Requested opportunity to present to Select Board with monument at Site 15. Feedback from community stakeholders indicated there is widespread support for Site 15, and that alternate site have drawbacks (and less support).
July 25, 2022: Select Board voted unanimously in support of LexSeeHer proposal
The LexSeeHer Steering Committee has undertaken the initiative to establish a monument to honor the contributions women have made to Lexington across time.
Our Steering Committee has been inspired by the remarkable women who are included in the Lexington Historical Society's exhibit "Bold Women of Lexington." Over time, community members nominated additional women who enriched our project.
This effort kicked off March 8, 2020 as part of the celebration of International Women's Day. The global pandemic put the project on pause - briefly - but the Steering Committee gathered sufficient signatures for a Citizens' Petition to Special Town Meeting in fall 2020
LexSeeHer held a 5-month open nomination process for community members to share the women who inspired them.
We also learned about remarkable women from Freedom's Way, and from further research efforts from our Research Team and members of our Advisory Board.
Thank you to everyone who continues bringing forward the stories of Lexington women. Together we will make women visible!
The Steering Committee has worked to gather the sense of community commitment to establish this new monument in several ways. Following the kick-off, we gathered sufficient signatures for a Citizens' Petition to Special Town Meeting in fall 2020. Town Meeting voted overwhelmingly in support of the initiative by a vote of 165 - 3 on "Article 7." This non-binding resolution helped express the sense from elected community representatives that it is time to make women visible.
Additional research to uncover unsung women has taken place through our guest Speaker Series, where we have featured historians and researchers who share their work on women's lives, and we have held 12 free sessions open to all members of the community who seek to support this work. In each session we have time for questions and comments from all participants, providing further insight into the way community members wish to support a new monument.
In early fall 2020, the Steering Committee launched a public call for any interested people with a connection to Lexington to submit nominations for women who should be considered as possible sources of inspiration for the new monument. Working through our website, social media, word-of-mouth, and our local newspapers, the Colonial Times and the Lexington Minuteman, we asked people to let us know about women whose contributions deserved further study or recognition. [Due to the ongoing pandemic, we extended the original deadline to January 9, 2021, then to February 26, 2021, and finally to February 28, 2021.]
Nominations have ranged from well-recognized names to names of important women who we had not heard about prior to the open process. The ongoing outpouring of support for the work of making women's contributions visible has suggested to us that we pursue different means of making women visible, including the first stops on a new Women's History Trail "In Her Shoes", the Visibility Banners organized by Girl Scout Troop 66265, and our permanent monument initiative.