Inside The Statue Of Liberty’s Radical Feminist, Pro-Refugee Roots
America may have rejected a woman to lead the nation, but Lady Liberty’s steadfast arm still leads the way
MOSTLY, I REMEMBER STAIRS. A lot of stairs. And waiting. Both the endless steps and the wait were made longer—seemingly insurmountable—by my age. I was seven or eight, and it would soon be the first time I saw the largest piece of street art in America: The Statue of Liberty.
She isn’t usually thought of as street art—or even, really, as art. Instead, Lady Liberty is regarded as an icon: The embodiment of the United States of America as a safe place for refugees. She belongs to all of us—at the Women’s March and demonstrations against Trump’s immigration ban, she has been the image that most consistently appears, repurposed to suit each protester’s message on countless signs, T-shirts, and social media posts.
She didn’t start out that way.
As befitting a massive piece of art, the Statue of Liberty was, from the very beginning, a collaboration. Conceived by Frenchman Edouard de Laboulaye as a gift to America to celebrate the Declaration of Independence’s centennial, the Statue of Liberty was designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and French engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (yes, that Eiffel), along with American architect Richard Morris Hunt, who designed the granite pedestal on which the statue stands. Except for the pedestal, construction took place in France.