Virginia Women’s Monument gets presidential push

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — There has been a lot of talk of monuments coming down in Virginia, but on Thursday the focus was on one that will go up.

The Virginia Capitol Foundation is in the process of raising money for the Virginia Women’s Monument Voices from the Garden.

Jenna Bush Hager came to Richmond to show her support for the project through a fundraiser.

Hundreds of people attended a Q&A with the author, TV correspondent and daughter of President George W. Bush. The event was held at St. Catherine’s School.

Moderator Kay Coles James and Hager spoke about family, balancing a demanding career with young children and the importance of having a voice.

It is estimated that less than 8 percent of monuments in the United States are dedicated to women.

“I was thinking about how many statues there are for my grandfather and father, who deserve statues, but I don’t think I’ve seen any of my mom or my grandmother,” said Hager. “That isn’t teaching our girls the right message. Women are very important to our society.”

A dozen women were chosen to make up the Virginia Women’s Monument, which will go in Richmond’s Capitol Square. They are women who made a difference but maybe not headlines.

“It’s important that we be able to tell these stories because there are so many people out there who have done extraordinary things that aren’t on the forefront of people’s minds,” said Virginia Capitol Foundation Executive Director Colleen Dugan Messick.

The first bronze statue of the monument will be of Adèle Goodman Clark, a suffragist and arts leader.

She was also a 1901 graduate of Virginia Randolph Ellett School, the predecessor of St. Catherine’s School.

“We are halfway to our $200,000 goal to commission her,” said Messick.

Other featured women will include Captain Sally Louisa Tompkins, who established Robertson Hospital in Richmond to treat wounded Civil War soldiers; Martha Dandridge Custis Washington, the country’s very first First Lady; and Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley, who provided support for recently-freed slaves and wounded soldiers.

Click HERE to read bios for all the women who will make up the monument.

The Virginia Capitol Foundation is still raising $1.6 million for the project. Organizers hope the stories behind the statues will show young women they, too, can reach a little higher.

“It’s not that you can be a teacher, you can be a principal. It’s not just a secretary, you can own a business,” said Messick.

A groundbreaking is expected to happen before the end of the year. After that, it is estimated to take two to three years to complete the project.

This was Hager’s first public speaking appearance in Richmond.

She married Henry Hager in 2008. They have two girls, Mila and Poppy.

A graduate of St. Christopher’s School in Richmond, Henry Hager is the son of former Virginia Lieutenant Governor John H. Hager and Maggie Hager, who serves on the board of the Virginia Capitol Foundation.

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