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Breaking the Bronze Ceiling: Investigating a Monumental Inequality

We live in a time when the question of who is (or is not) depicted in public monuments is a topic of heated discussions across the nation. For example, the removal of Robert E. Lee statue in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulted in a violent protest in 2017. Such debates concerning the display and preservation of Civil War monuments center around concerns that Confederate monuments romanticize the pro-slavery South and fail to acknowledge the racial oppression that fueled the Civil War. But issues about Civil War monuments are part of a larger discussion about the effect of monuments in public spaces. The presence of these monuments, and what they symbolize to different groups of people in the communities in which they are located, has highlighted the important role that public art can have in our culture.

In this article, the authors describe a lesson that engages students in considering the bronze ceiling in relation to the presence and absence of women from public art.