Statue Honoring Marian Spencer Coming To Smale Park

Oct 11, 2019

A statue is in the works to honor Cincinnati civil rights leader Marian Spencer.

The Woman's City Club is behind the effort unveiled Friday. Committee Chair Alice Schneider says there are lots of statues of women around the city, but none of them are named or of real women.

"There are many statues, like (at) Fountain Square - a representation of a woman - but none where a woman represents good work in the community and would be a model for adults but especially for children," she says.

That's what prompted her to consider this project, and Spencer was an ideal selection. Schneider prompted friend and biographer Dot Christensen to ask Spencer for permission.

"She wrote out on paper that she would be honored to be represented by a statue," Schneider says.

Artist rendering of the statue.
Credit Courtesy of Woman's City Club

Artist Tom Tsuchiya, whose statues of Reds players are featured outside Great American Ball Park, is creating the sculpture. Spencer will be depicted with arms outstretched, one to two young people and the other open for visitors to grasp and complete a circle.

"What we hope to put in front of the statue or someplace is that 'Marian Spencer stood up fearlessly for what she believed was right and challenged us to be smart, be polite, vote and keep on fighting.' "

The statue will be placed near the labyrinth in Smale Park. Organizers are trying to raise $125,000.

The group is aiming for an unveiling on what would have been Spencer's 100th birthday in June 2020.

Marian Spencer died in July 2019 at the age of 99. Considered a civil rights icon, she was the first African American woman to be elected to Cincinnati City Council in 1983 and the first woman to head the Cincinnati chapter of the NAACP.

When her children were denied entry to Coney Island in the 1950s because of their skin color, Spencer stood outside the gates and demanded change. Her subsequent lawsuit led to integration. She also fought to desegregate Cincinnati Public Schools.