‘Voices from the Garden’ monument in Capitol Square to honor Va. women

Jeremy M. Lazarus | 3/30/2017, 11:51 p.m.
A new monument to Virginia women is planned to rise in about two-and-a-half years on the grounds of the State ...
Artist rendering of “Voices from the Garden.”

By Jeremy M. Lazarus

A new monument to Virginia women is planned to rise in about two-and-a-half years on the grounds of the State Capitol to celebrate the impact women have had on the commonwealth and the nation.

It is to feature 12 women, including four African-Americans, who have made a difference.

Called “Voices from the Garden,” the monument is described as the first of its kind in this country to recognize the full range of women’s achievements.

Much has been accomplished since the plan for the monument was approved seven years ago.

The location has been selected — near the 9th Street entrance on the west side of the Capitol.

The design has been set — an oval-shaped stone garden with 12 bronze statues of the honorees, a glass panel etched with the names of other Virginia women achievers and a bench listing milestones in Virginia women’s history.

The only thing missing is money — the private donations that will make the project happen.

The monument is expected to cost $3.7 million, and there is still a ways to go to reach that goal, although organizers have not publicly disclosed just how much is still needed.

According to people familiar with the project, less than a third of the total is in hand.

To help stir interest and donations, organizations helping to make the monument a reality have created “March to Mothers’ Day,” an online opportunity to contribute in honor of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and other women who played a significant role in the donor’s life.

With every tribute donation, a certificate or handwritten card is to be sent with a personalized message to the woman or women a donor wants to honor.

The campaign is a joint project of the Virginia Women’s Monument Commission and its partners, the Virginia Capitol Foundation and the 2019 Commemoration.

The commission is spearheading the monument project, the foundation is handling the money and the commemoration group is making this project part of its plan for celebrating one of the most important years in state history — 1619.

Commemoration 2019 is heading efforts to mark the 400th anniversary of that milestone year that saw the arrival of the first Africans in British North America, the launch of the first elected legislature, the House of Burgesses, and the holding of the first sanctioned Thanksgiving prayer service.

The women’s monument is seen as giving more attention to the role that females played in establishing the colony.

The 12 women to be celebrated are a diverse group. They include Cockacoeske (1656- 1686), queen of the Pamunkey Indians who united tribes, ended the war with the English and accepted a reservation; and Ann Burras Laydon, mother of the first English child born in the Jamestown colony.

The four African-American women to be featured are:

• Dr. Sarah Garland Boyd Jones of Richmond (1866-1905), one of the first women and the first African-American woman to be licensed as a physician in the state and the co-founder with her husband of a hospital serving African-Americans that ultimately became Richmond Community Hospital.