Feb 23, 2020
Member of The Raging Grannies Patty Bennett laying a rose at the feet of the Jane Addams statue at the Peace Garden during the annual commemoration of the statue on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019. (Larry Valenzuela/ The Collegian)

Jane Addams, her place in the Peace Garden created a gender integrated zone

Fresno State’s Cross Cultural and Gender Center (CCGC) celebrated the annual commemoration of the Jane Addams statue in the Peace Garden on Friday in the Ellipse Gallery in the Henry Madden Library..

To celebrate the statue’s place in the Peace Garden, the CCGC invited The Raging Grannies from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), Dr. Janet Slagter from the women’s studies department and Dr. Sudarshan Kapoor who helped start the Peace Garden.

“The completed memorial is the fruit of years of work by many people,” Slagter said. “Much of the organizing and all of the research for it was completed by women’s studies, feminist activisism students who, beginning in 2003, lobbied to have a woman in the garden. So, the Peace Garden at Fresno State officially became a gender-integrated zone on April 6, 2006.”

The Peace Garden, located in the grass between the library and the Family Food and Sciences Building, also displays statues of Mahatma Gandhi, Cesar E. Chavez and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

To kick off the event, The Raging Grannies from WILPF sang four songs, two of which were parodies. They sang: “Half the Sky,”; “A Song for Immigrants,” a parody of “This Land is Your Land”; “The Border Song,” a parody of “Bring Back My Bonnie to Me”; and “Let There Be Peace on Earth.”

The parodies were written in recognition of the current struggle of immigrants along the southern border trying to get into the U.S. Since Addams was a proponent of immigrant causes, The Grannies used the songs to highlight the continuous battles immigrants have to fight, according to Kay Tolladay Pitts, spokeswoman for The Raging Grannies. 

During the last song, The Grannies had the audience stand up, form a circle, hold hands and sing “Let There Be Peace on Earth” with them.

“Standing [in] a circle and singing together is appropriate for the piece, and we’ve done this every year. It just seems appropriate to do something very peaceful with your hands,” Pitts said.

Addams was one of 25 proposed women to be commemorated in the Peace Garden. She was chosen because she was a woman of peace who made it her life’s work to advocate against oppression, discrimination and prejudice, according to Kapoor. 

During her life, Addams was the first American woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize. She founded the field of social work, co-founded the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union, founded WILPF. She made the first settlement house, Hull-House, she served the poor, advocated for immigrant rights and she advocated for children’s education. 

Shawna Irissarri, lead student coordinator of the Gender Programs and Services of CCGC, said, “She was just like a big influential figure as far as social justice.”  

To celebrate the commemoration of the statue, participants draped a wreath of flowers around the statue of Addams lifting an immigrant child, holding a glass globe, into the air. Participants also placed white and red flowers at the base of the statue. 

Before going to the Peace Garden, Kapoor announced that the garden will have a new addition: a statue of Nelson Mandella. Kapoor said the addition of Mandella  has been approved by Fresno State President Dr. Joseph I. Castro and is in the funding stages of development. 

The Mandella statue is estimated to cost between $100,000 to $150,000. Currently, Fresno State has raised $40,000 for the statue and is encouraging community donations.

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