New App Gives Fierce Feminists The Recognition They Deserve — At Least Virtually

Using augmented reality, The Whole Story is placing statues of notable women around the world.

In Central Park in New York City, there are 29 statues. Chicago parks are home to 48 statues. There are 11 in Parliament Square in London. Of those 88 total statues, the number that commemorate real women is zero.

As activists work to improves that statistic, a new initiative is making sure the role women have played in history is honored in the meantime — at least virtually. Launched by marketing firm Y&R New York and developed with Current Studios, The Whole Story app uses augmented reality technology similar to Pokemon Go to place statues of notable women in parks around the world. When users stand where a statue has been "built" the memorial appears in the user's camera along with biographical information about the icon.



Y&R New York
Y&R New York

"It is no surprise that everywhere you turn, in almost every city, most of the statues in public spaces are men, and the few women are usually drawn from fiction," Leslie Sims, chief creative officer at Y&R North America, said in a statement. "Many groups, including the UN and Girls Scouts, are working hard to redress this gender imbalance but, realistically it's going to take millions of dollars and many years before we see even a handful of women taking their place in the public landscape."

With the help of Tina Brown and a local Girl Scout troop, the app was launched last April when Brown placed a statue of Maria Tallchief, the first Native American prima ballerina in America, in Dante Park in Manhattan. 

Designers have already placed 22 statues in Central Park and 10 across cities in Europe with the intention of expanding the project to countries around the world. Users can also design their own statues to share in the app.

"Our dream is to see this become a worldwide collaborative platform for years to come," Catherine Patterson, Director of Innovation, told A Plus. 

The initiative was developed to support the U.N.'s Sustainable Development Goal to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. In addition, Y&R collaborated with the National Collaborative for Women's History Sites, a nonprofit that works to preserve sites that are notable in documenting the role women have played in American history, to encourage the creation of physical statues in the real world as well. 

"We thought teaming our efforts in augmented reality with theirs in real historical statue fund raising would be a perfect partnership," Patterson said.

Patterson also hopes the historical and technological aspects of the project will bring multiple generations of women together. 

"We hope girls take away the message that history is in their hands and that they have the tools they need right now to collaborate, design, code and write a better future together for women and girls everywhere," she said.

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