A new monument was unveiled at the corner of Main and Gervais streets during a sunny ceremony Wednesday morning.

The monument, titled Architecture of Strength, was designed to inspire inclusion and honor women while celebrating the historical accomplishments of women in Columbia.

Historic Columbia, Women’s Rights Empowerment Network (WREN), Columbia City of Women steering committee and Central Carolina Community Foundation were pioneers in turning the vision of Architecture of Strength into a reality.

"We believe in the power of moving through a city that recognizes women’s achievements," said Ann Warner, CEO of WREN. "Our goal is to tell their stories, celebrate their successes and seek to put their names in Columbia’s landscape. By doing this, we connect residents of all backgrounds to the impact of women on our city and inspire a future generation of leadership."

Architecture of Strength will permanently reside on the corner of Main Street, facing the State House grounds as a symbol of protest to many of the historic monuments on the capitol grounds that have been deemed controversial in recent years.

Artist Deedee Morrison of Greenville was chosen to spearhead the project. She released the following statement regarding the meaning of the piece:

"Architecture of Strength sets a new tone to spark curiosity and awareness of our collective history, simultaneously encouraging bold acts of belonging and inclusion of the underrepresented, marginalized and segregated members of our society. How we choose to honor and remember the past, will always direct the pathway into our future.

This is the moment of embarkation for Architecture of Strength She is to honor the original City of Women honorees, but she provides inclusion for all. From this fixed luminous point, we incorporate a broader, more encompassing view of our history and move into a new dimension of thought. One of wholeness and unity and fostering a broader expression of justice and equality. Architecture of Strength gracefully stands, 17 feet tall on a circular foundation. What was once many pieces of stainless steel pipe in varying sizes, is now welded back together, her strength being created from the sum of parts. As I created her I reflected on the many and the nameless who have come before us and shown the way through strength and conviction. 

I have deep gratitude to the City of Women and Columbia to have been a part of this public art journey with you."

Historic Columbia's CEO Robin Waites said this monument is a modern representation of women, as opposed to others which have been erected in Columbia. 

"The first monument to women was installed on the grounds across the street in 1912 to honor the South Carolina Women of the Confederacy," Waites said. "It was envisioned, designed and paid for by men, and in fact the women that it was meant to commemorate did not want it...This 1912 monument was designed to keep women down."

Mayor Steve Benjamin spoke at the unveiling ceremony, noting that prior to attending the event Wednesday morning, he "made it a point" to visit the monument of Dr. J Marion Sims.

He said that while Architecture of Strength highlights the achievements of Sara Mae Flemming, Harriet Hancock, Ethel Bolden and Dawn Staley, it also represents the stories of women who were left voiceless by Sims.

"She also speaks to the contributions of the Anarcha, Lucy and Betsy and the various unwilling patients of Dr. Sims," Benjamin said. "The unheard voices that sacrificed so much for the world which we live in today."

Additional details about Architecture of Strength are available online.

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