The state Senate voted 29-0 May 28 to create the Women’s Tribute Statue Commission. The law, which the House of Representatives had approved earlier in the legislative session, was sponsored by Rep. Laura Hall of Huntsville.
“The statues of Helen Keller and Rosa Parks will allow our state to continue telling its entire story; honoring the leaders of the past, while committing to progress and equality for the future,” Hall said.
The commission, which the law says should be representative of the arts, civil rights and those with disabilities, is charged with funding, designing and placing statues honoring Parks and Keller on the capitol grounds, seeking input from public and private entities. The commission may use public and private funds for the monuments, according to the law.
The body will consist of seven members appointed by the governor, president pro tempore of the Alabama Senate and speaker of the Alabama House of Representatives. According to the law, once the statues have been placed, the commission will be dissolved.
Parks became an international symbol for civil rights after being arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white passenger in December 1955. Her act of defiance led to the Montgomery bus boycott, a turning point in the United States civil rights movement. Parks would spend the rest of her life advocating for civil rights for African Americans. When she died in 2005, she became the first woman to lie in honor at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.
Keller was born in Tuscumbia in 1880 and at age 19 months contracted an illness that left her blind and deaf. She, too, became world famous as her story of learning to communicate became an inspiration for many and was adapted for stage and film in “The Miracle Worker.” Keller became the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and spent her life as an author and lecturer. She campaigned for people with disabilities and women’s suffrage.
Both women have been awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award in the U.S.
The governor was joined by backers of the legislation when she signed it.
“It’s an important recognition,” Ivey said. “Those two individuals have made significant contributions to our state and nation and it’s very proper that they be so recognized.”