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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 10/22/18

Searching for the Goddess in Washington DC

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I romped around DC last weekend with four of my fun-loving girlfriends on our way to a women's event at the National Mall. Our day began on a promising note: on the walk to the metro station we were greeted by this inspiring sidewalk art.

Sidewalk art in the Washington DC area
Sidewalk art in the Washington DC area
(Image by Meryl Ann Butler)
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It was beautiful weather to walk around Washington, although we hadn't intended to walk quite as far as we did. The directions we had been given to our women's event were not complete, so it took us over an hour to find it. If you have been to the National Mall, which runs from the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial, you may remember that the distance from one end to the other is about two miles.

On our trek we saw an Honor Flight group of WW2 veterans getting their photo taken at the WW2 Memorial, near the Washington Monument. According to the National WW2 Museum 16 million Americans, including over 400,000 women, served in WW2. In 2017, only 558,000 veterans remained, and over 360 of them die every day. (My late dad served in the Mediterranean, and he enjoyed an Honor Flight trip to the WW2 Memorial in 2010, which I wrote about on OpEdNews here.)

We walked toward a large rally in progress at the Lincoln Memorial, but upon closer inspection, it was not the event we were looking for. When we finally found our event, it was ironic to note that towering over a plethora of feminine imagery was the juxtaposition of the erect and distinctly phallic Washington Monument.

Feminist gathering on the National Mall
Feminist gathering on the National Mall
(Image by Meryl Ann Butler)
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The menacing point seemed appropriately symbolic of the current political climate. Ouch!

Washington Monument Above Trees
Washington Monument Above Trees
(Image by (Not Known) Wikipedia (, Author: Author Not Given)
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Yet, just beyond that obelisk of patriarchy was the dome of the Capitol building, with the Statue of Freedom, sometimes called the Goddess of Freedom, perched at the architectural apex of Congress, regally presiding over the District of Columbia.

US Capitol west side
US Capitol west side
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Martin Falbisoner  (1978–)   / Own work, Author: See Source)
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Statue of Freedom - United States Capitol
Statue of Freedom - United States Capitol
(Image by (From Wikimedia) dbking, Author: dbking)
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The statue is 19.5 feet tall and weighs approximately 15,000 pounds. Her pedestal almost doubles her height. She was created in 1863, with most of the final onsite work done by a slave after the death of sculptor Thomas Crawford in Italy.

A full size plaster casting of the Statue of Freedom can be seen in the Capitol Visitor Center, which opened in 2008.

Plaster cast of the Statue of Freedom in Emancipation Hall  at the Capitol Visitor Center
Plaster cast of the Statue of Freedom in Emancipation Hall at the Capitol Visitor Center
(Image by Architect of the Capitol/US Government)
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Our Statue of Freedom is closely related to the symbol of Columbia, who was seen as the goddess of liberty and the personification of America's thirteen colonies. She was often depicted wearing a Phrygian cap, a symbol of freedom. The Latin etymology of the word "Columbia" connects it with the dove, and therefore with peace.

By the 1920's, the symbol of the Statue of Liberty became more well known, and Lady Columbia seemed to fade into history - or maybe she is with us still, subtly evolved into our beloved Wonder Woman!

The nation's capitol is home to a wealth of other feminine statues. For instance, the east front of the House of Representatives building features the goddess, "Peace," as the focal point in the Apotheosis of Democracy. (For more exploration, a map of over 50 female statues in DC can be found here.)

'Peace,' stands as the focal point to the pediment of the Apotheosis of Democracy
'Peace,' stands as the focal point to the pediment of the Apotheosis of Democracy
(Image by (From Wikimedia) Photo: Andreas Praefcke, Author: Photo: Andreas Praefcke)
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At the end of our "wonder women" day all five of us crammed into a taxi to the metro station, with heads down so we wouldn't get pulled over by police for exceeding the legal limit of four passengers!

After we arrived at the metro station we enjoyed one of the highlights of the day -- a lonely fellow was standing at the metro entrance unsuccessfully trying to give away free hats. In spite of the fact that he gestured at dozens of passersby every minute, we noticed he had no takers. When we got closer we saw why.

As he tried to give each of us one of his hats, like the other passersby, we vehemently refused his entreaties. We all joked together and he laughed, and the look on his face revealed that he knew he was involved in an endeavor destined for failure.

Each of his hats proclaimed "Make America Great Again," and no one walking by was having any of it.

Patriarchy must be on its way out.

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Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

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