This is not meant to be a slight against Mary Richards or the actor who portrayed her, Mary Tyler Moore, but can we please put some real women on pedestals?

Our most famous statue of a woman in Minnesota is the beloved yet very fictional Richards tossing her hat along Nicollet Mall, just as she did in the 1970s show's opening credits.

Real-life women are underrepresented in Minnesota's statues, according to a recent report from Axios. Besides Mary Richards, our female statues include Paul Bunyan's significant other, Lucette, in Hackensack; a giant pioneer woman in Falcon Heights; and two horse-loving figures representing agriculture industry atop the State Capitol. They are muses, protagonists and symbols, but not actual women immortalized for their accomplishments.

We've made strides in recent years. A bronze bust of Sharon Sayles Belton, Minneapolis' first woman and first African American to become mayor, went up at City Hall in 2017. Labor and civil rights activist Nellie Stone Johnson was memorialized last year, becoming the first actual woman, and the first Black Minnesotan, to be depicted in statue at the State Capitol.

Which other trailblazing women deserve to have their likeness set in stone, bronze or steel? Here's a list of contenders. Feel free to make your own suggestions— Minnesota has an abundance of outstanding women.

Josie Johnson

A civil rights icon, Johnson has fought for expanding access to housing, education and voting. She played a key role in the passage of Minnesota's fair housing bill in 1962, which helped inspire the federal Fair Housing Act years later. As a professor, she helped create the University of Minnesota's African American and African Studies program before leaving to become the U's first Black regent in 1971. She also displayed a grit beneath her kindness that got things done, as former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale noted: "If you want to fight with her, she'll be very nice about it, but you'll be sorry you got in a fight because you're going to lose."

Jessie Diggins

If only this statue could include a recording of the commentator's voice booming, "HERE COMES DIGGINS!!!" Diggins and Kikkan Randall made history in 2018 when they became the first American cross-country ski team to win gold at the Olympics. After winning silver and bronze at the 2022 Winter Olympics, the Afton native is now the most decorated American cross-country skier of all time. She also has used her platform to empower girls in sports and to bring visibility to climate change and eating disorders.

Judy Garland

Although you can find a statue of Dorothy at the Judy Garland Museum in her hometown of Grand Rapids, I propose memorializing Garland herself. The screen legend was prolific and widely acclaimed as an actor, singer and recording artist. She was the first woman to win the Grammy Award for Album of the Year. Born to parents who were vaudeville artists, Garland — then known as Frances Gumm — was said to have made her performance debut at the age of 30 months at the Grand Rapids theater her parents owned, when she sang "Jingle Bells" during a Christmas program.

Rosalie Wahl

The first woman appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court, Wahl broke more than the gender barrier. She was a voice for racial minorities, the poor and others on the margins. "Few state Supreme Court justices have made a larger impact for good than she did, or commanded more respect," read a Strib editorial when Wahl died in 2013.

Ann Bancroft

Where to start? The adventurer and educator became the first woman to trek to the North Pole by dogsled; she led the first all-female expedition to cross the ice to the South Pole, and she and Norwegian explorer Liv Arnesen later became the first women to ski across Antarctica. She started the Ann Bancroft Foundation to fund other girls' dreams.

Suni Lee

As Strib sports columnist Jim Souhan said, Lee is "one of the best stories Minnesota has ever been able to claim." The Hmong American gymnast from St. Paul, the child of immigrants, won the individual all-around gold medal and the bronze in uneven bars in 2021. Until Lee, a Minnesotan had never won an individual gold medal in gymnastics.

Louise Erdrich

Erdrich's long and acclaimed writing career has amassed a Pulitzer Prize in fiction, the National Book Award and many other accolades. Much of her work — which includes novels, children's literature, essays, poems and nonfiction — centers the experiences of Native American communities. Born in Little Falls, she grew up in North Dakota, an enrolled member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians. She's also the owner of Birchbark Books, a Minneapolis bookstore that she considers her biggest work of art.

Coya Knutson

In 1954, Knutson became the first woman elected by Minnesotans to Congress. Known as brash and plainspoken, and the child of Norwegian immigrants, she billed herself as a "the farm woman's congresswoman" and served two terms. As she was running for a third, however, a letter that was circulated to the press signed by her estranged husband implored her to quit her campaign return to their family. The "Coya, Come Home" letter, which was most likely written by political rivals within her DFL Party, led to her defeat and would be remembered as an example of sexism in politics.

Susan Kimberly

Imagine the guts it took for Susan Kimberly to transition so publicly in the early 1980s after living her first 40 years as a man. A St. Paul City Council member in the 1970s when she identified as male, she came back to City Hall after her transition, working for Mayor George Latimer, and then as deputy mayor under Norm Coleman. She had become the first transgender person to ascend to that role in any major U.S. city. But it wasn't the only big switch she'd have to navigate in the public eye: "I lost more friends becoming a Republican than I did becoming a woman," she said.


The singer/rapper/flutist and four-time Grammy winner, who won the award in 2022 for Record of the Year, had a seven-year stint in the Twin Cities. She's also become an ambassador for self-acceptance and body positivity, not to mention woodwinds. Even though she no longer lives in Minneapolis, we can unabashedly claim Lizzo as a Minnesotan because she claims us. "Best decision I made in my life [was] moving here," she told 16,000 fans last year at her sold-out show at the Xcel Energy Center. "Best city in the universe."