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After COVID Delay, Marian Spencer Statue Could Be Standing This Month

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Tom Tsuchiya
The statue, shown here at about 90% complete, portrays Spencer when she was vice-mayor in 1983-84. Tsuchiya says the overall motif is Juncta Juvant, the city's motto.

The first statue in Hamilton County of a specific woman will go up before the end of this year. That's the hope of the Women's City Club of Greater Cincinnati. Work to install the statue honoring the late Marian Spencer started this week at Smale Riverfront Park.Statue Committee Chair Alice Schneider says the original plan was to put the statue in place in June, but the coronavirus pandemic got in the way. "Tom Tsuchiya, the sculptor, had to stop working for a while. We had a bit of a setback, but we are on track now," she says. "The construction crew is there pulling up the pavers, digging in, then they're going to put some cement down."

Schneider says the hope is to have the statue up by Jan. 1, "if not before. We're so happy about that."

Marian Spencer was the first African American woman to be elected to Cincinnati City Council, and the first woman to lead the local chapter of the NAACP. In the 1950s, when her children were barred from Coney Island because they were Black, she led the effort to integrate the amusement park. She was also a part of the fight to desegregate Cincinnati Public Schools. Spencer died in July 2019.

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Credit Bill Rinehart / WVXU
Contractors work on the statue site in Smale Riverfront Park, Friday morning.

Her statue will be in Smale Riverfront Park, just east of the Roebling Suspension Bridge, "so that children, as well as adults will come and see the statue and hopefully be inspired by somebody who used peaceful means to achieve change," Schneider says.

The Women's Club plans to have a small installation ceremony, and a larger event next year. "We're going to try again for June 28, 2021, which would be Marian Spencer's 101 birthday to have a dedication, but all that depends on how the vaccines go and the coronavirus," Schneider says.

The sculptor, Tom Tsuchiya, is also the artist behind the statues of Reds players outside Great American Ball Park, the statue of Jesus at the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, and Joe Nuxhall in Fairfield.

The Women's Club of Cincinnati collected private donations to pay for the statue.