Brookline mother Dawn Oates thought she had planned the perfect ending to a girls’ weekend in New York City with her 6-year-old daughter, Harper in February: a photo with the symbolic “Fearless Girl” statue.
The first-grader had hoped to take a picture beside the powerful figure, which was first put on display in Manhattan by State Street Global Advisors in March 2017 – opposite Wall Street’s famous “Charging Bull” statue. It quickly became a symbol of empowerment for women, calling attention to the need for greater gender diversity in the corporate world.
But the photo of Harper shows her sitting behind the bronze sculpture, because it wasn’t wheelchair accessible. Dawn said she couldn’t lift her daughter’s 400-pound power wheelchair over the nearly 4-inch brick platform that at the time housed both “Fearless Girl” and “Charging Bull.”
“I couldn’t go up to her,” said Harper, who was paralyzed at birth during a C-section.
“My daughter epitomizes strength despite adversity,” Oates said. “It was important to me that she’d be able to take a picture next to the statue at street level.”
So Oates decided to organize a relay marathon through her local nonprofit, the Play Brigade, which aims to create inclusive opportunities in sports and recreation for people of all abilities. The idea was raise awareness about the importance of making the statue accessible to everyone.
In the days leading up to the “Fearless Girl” relocation on Monday to in front of the New York Stock Exchange, 36 runners from New Hampshire to South Carolina ran in the Fearless Girl Marathon Relay
The volunteers collectively ran more than 250 miles — more than the distance between Boston and New York City — in support of putting the statue in an accessible location.
When Oates created a Facebook post about the event, including the photo, a mother from her daughter’s class who works at Boston-based State Street Global Advisors reached out and offered to connect her with the financial company.
State Street installed the statue to raise awareness for an initiative to increase the number of women on corporate boards, and it has since become a symbol for resilience and equality. Oates told State Street her daughter’s story while the company was deciding where to relocate the figure.
“A key motivation for moving the Fearless Girl statue to the NYSE was to increase her accessibility and availability for everyone who wanted to see the iconic figure,” State Street said in a statement.
A formal partnership between Play Brigade and State Street never came to fruition, but Dawn and Harper Oates say they’re happy that more people can now take a photo next to “Fearless Girl.”
“Diversity includes disability, but disability is often left out of the conversation,” said Oates, who made the trip back to the Big Apple with her daughter on Monday to get a closer look at the statue. “The new location,” she said, “has leveled the playing field for everyone to enjoy it, regardless of the ability.”Allison Hagan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @allisonhxgan.