By NATHANIEL STRINGER
As UMW undergoes a new marketing campaign with Mindpower Inc., an Atlanta-based marketing agency, it may benefit the university to incorporate a monument to Mary Washington onto campus. This move would pay homage to a historically-significant woman and women’s rights in general, encouraging prospective students to recognize the historical significance of the university and education rights for women.
When a prospective student tours George Mason or James Madison University, one of the first landmarks that can be seen is a well-crafted statue in tribute to the university’s namesake; George Mason or James Madison, respectively. However, at the University of Mary Washington, there is not a prominent memorial to the institution’s namesake like at the two previously mentioned schools. In fact, there is no statue of Mary Washington at UMW and there is hardly any noticeable tribute to the famous mother of the first President of the United States.
Washington’s maiden name, Ball, has been used to name a residence hall and the popular activities field outside the University Center. However, the names ‘Ball Hall’ and ‘Ball Circle’ do not pay a clear and respectable appreciation. While this is a start at paying tribute, it does not fully accomplish its goal.
“I did not know that Ball was Mary Washington’s middle name, let alone that there were any landmarks on campus named after her. I think that there should be something more obvious dedicated to here, here on campus.” said Rynan Garner, a junior communication and digital studies major.
Washington has a story worth sharing. She grew up as an orphan and raised six children. A powerful woman, it has been said that Washington went against cultural standards imposed upon women in the eighteenth century by not remarrying – which would have prevented her children from being entitled to the rights of the property that were in her possession. Family and community mattered to Washington, and we should be honoring that here on campus considering those are such important parts of our campus life.
One of the most prominent statues on campus is a bust of James Farmer across from Trinkle Hall. Although James Farmer holds historical significance as an American civil rights activist, some students believe Washington should be able to share in the historic recognition on campus. The reason that Washington deserves this kind of recognition is to serve as a reminder that women have also made significant impacts on history, despite repressive eras of the past.
Alara LeJeune, a nursing student, said, “James Farmer had a significant impact on civil rights and was an important part of Fredericksburg’s history. However, in addition to James Farmer, I do believe UMW should have a statue, or something similar, on campus to draw attention and remembrance to the woman the university is named after.”
Winnie Cargill, a senior historic preservation major, offered an explanation for why Farmer has a statue while the university’s namesake does not. Cargill said, “Unlike Mary Washington, James Farmer had an active role in the school, and he was a history and American studies professor. I think that because he physically taught students at the college, he had a more historical presence and a lasting legacy on the university and community.”
It is essential that Mary Washington is both remembered and celebrated on campus. Not only is it a classy move to commemorate the namesake of a university through memorialization, but from a marketing and student-satisfaction standpoint, it would behoove the university to celebrate her life through the implementation of a statue, or a similar physical memorial. Considering UMW was once an all-female university, honoring the woman this university was named for would not only pay respect to history but also women who have attended the university since its start.