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Controversy dies here: City’s statue of polarizing doctor will move to private Green-Wood Cemetery

Homeless: Green-Wood Cemetery provided Frederick William MacMonnies’s Civic Virtue statue refuge after it was exiled from both Manhattan and Queens.
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This controversial statue found a final resting place.

A monument the mayor banished from a city park will be relocated to Green-Wood Cemetery at the request of the private burial ground’s president, who believes the sculpture’s artistic and historical merits are worth preserving.

“He truly believes that works of art must have a home and be honored by being on display and on exhibit,” said Green-Wood spokeswoman Colleen Roche.

Mayor DeBlasio proposed removing the likeness of 19th-century gynecologist J. Marion Sims — which critics bash for glorifying a man who abused black women in the pursuit of medical knowledge — from its current home in Manhattan’s Central Park as one of the first recommendations from his citywide monument review, which concluded in December.

Hizzoner convened the Mayoral Advisory Commission on City Art, Monuments, and Markers last year, after alt-right protests against the proposed removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a Charlottesville, Va. park turned deadly.

Commission members recommended relocating the statue of the so-called “father of modern gynecology” from the Manhattan park, citing Sims’s legacy of experimenting on unwilling black slaves, most of whom were women, to further his understanding of human anatomy.

Cemetery workers will install the monument not far from where the polarizing doctor himself is buried, and imbed an informational plaque in its base that describes the gynecologist’s contributions to modern medicine — and his inexcusable exploitation of black women, Green-Wood’s president said.

“As a responsible repository of our country’s history, Green-Wood will add an appropriate historical display to the site telling Sims’s story — good and bad,” said Richard J. Moylan. “We are treating this as an important and serious teachable moment.”

But the physician’s likeness isn’t the only controversial work of public art on display at the bucolic necropolis. The monument to Sims will join another notorious sculpture, Civic Virtue Triumphant Over Unrighteousness, a fountain that moved to the cemetery in 2012 after critics decried its depiction of man — representing civic virtue — conquering half-woman, half-reptile representations of immorality as anti-feminist for decades.

Mayor George B. McClellan, Jr. commissioned artist Frederick William MacMonnies’s 17-foot tall monument to misogyny, which sparked controversy not long after it was first installed in front of City Hall in 1922, according to reports.

In 1941, Mayor Fiorello Laguardia banished the statue to the outer borough of Queens, where it sat largely uncared for outside a city building for more than 70 years.

And in a somewhat ironic twist of fate, disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner called the statue “sexist” and proposed selling it on Craigslist in 2011, prompting Moylan to invite it to Green-Wood, where it was installed with an informational placard similar to the sign graveyard stewards will affix to Sims’s likeness, Roche said.

“If you saw Civic Virtue where it is now and the explanatory plaque, it gives the history — good and bad,” the spokeswoman said. “With J. Marion Sims, we’ll do the same thing.”

Reach reporter Colin Mixson at cmixson@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4505.
Posted 12:00 am, January 19, 2018
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Reader feedback

Anthony Marchese from Carroll Gardens says:
January 22. 2018

Vince DiMiceli, Editor
Courier Life Publications
1 MetroTech Center Suite 1001
Brooklyn, New York 11201Civic Virtue

To the Editor,

Re: Courier Life, Jan 19 – 25, 2018
Statues Controversy dies at local cemetery

Good decision to provide an informational plaque to explain Doctor J. Marion Sims contribution to modern medicine and exposing the inhuman and horrible experimental surgeries he performed on black slave women. But why move the statue? Leave it where it is, save the expense of moving it, to put what in it's place? Use the money for a modern, well designed informational exhibit, explaining the history of gynecology, educate the public. Why banish the statue to Greenwood when in Central Park it can be a meaningful teaching tool. In the cemetery will anyone stop and read the plaque to find out who is this a statue of and what did he do - good and bad !
The statue of Civic Virtue far outweighs Sims statue as a work of artistic merit. The sculpture is an allegorical work typical of the time when it was created 95 years ago.
It was originally installed in the park in front of the City Hall building on Chambers Street in Manhattan. The story is that Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia had it moved to Queens because he disliked having to be face-to-face with the statues bare “rump” every evening when he left the building and descended the steps on his way home.

Anthony Marchese
41 Second Street
( Carroll Gardens)
Brooklyn, NY 11231
718-625-7233
January 22. 2018

Vince DiMiceli, Editor
Courier Life Publications
1 MetroTech Center Suite 1001
Brooklyn, New York 11201Civic Virtue

To the Editor,

Re: Courier Life, Jan 19 – 25, 2018
Statues Controversy dies at local cemetery

Good decision to provide an informational plaque to explain Doctor J. Marion Sims contribution to modern medicine and exposing the inhuman and horrible experimental surgeries he performed on black slave women. But why move the statue? Leave it where it is, save the expense of moving it, to put what in it's place? Use the money for a modern, well designed informational exhibit, explaining the history of gynecology, educate the public. Why banish the statue to Greenwood when in Central Park it can be a meaningful teaching tool. In the cemetery will anyone stop and read the plaque to find out who is this a statue of and what did he do - good and bad !
The statue of Civic Virtue far outweighs Sims statue as a work of artistic merit. The sculpture is an allegorical work typical of the time when it was created 95 years ago.
It was originally installed in the park in front of the City Hall building on Chambers Street in Manhattan. The story is that Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia had it moved to Queens because he disliked having to be face-to-face with the statues bare “rump” every evening when he left the building and descended the steps on his way home.

Anthony Marchese
41 Second Street
( Carroll Gardens)
Brooklyn, NY 11231
718-625-7233
Jan. 22, 9:20 pm

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