Genevieve Towsley (1907-1995) was a journalist and historian of Naperville, IL. This installation honoring her was created in 1999.
A statue of a 72-year-old woman writer at work. Have you ever seen such a thing? Isn’t it glorious?
This once sleepy midwestern town has exploded over the last twenty years into one of Chicagoland’s largest suburbs. Its historic downtown has become a destination for folks seeking fine dining, upscale shopping, and interesting things to do — both indoors and outside — for the whole family.
Locals tend to either love or hate this boom. Everyone, however, agrees that parking in downtown Naperville is a nightmare. I do miss easier parking as well as a second-hand bookshop that was below street level…I think it was called the Book Cellar. Does that ring a bell for anyone?
One of the anchor stores of downtown Naperville is a two-story Barnes & Noble located at the intersection of Chicago Avenue & Washington Street. Just to the right of the entrance into B&N is a statue celebrating local writer Genevieve Towsley.
Whenever I’m in the area I stop to say hello to Genevive and admire sculptor Pamela S. Carpenter’s detailed work. I tell myself I’m going read some of Towsley’s writings, but I’ve yet to do so.
The installation is part of the Naperville Century Walk. “The Mission of Century Walk Corporation is to create culturally significant and diverse public art throughout Naperville in the 21st Century.”
Sculptor Carpenter chose to depict Towsley at age 72 because the writer was such a legend in the area. The loving attention to detail in Towsley’s hands, her notepad, and pen made me fall in love with this statue on sight when I first saw it some years ago.
This is the first statue I’ve ever seen honoring a specific woman in her later years for the work she has done and actually showing her at work.*
You can see more photos of the statue and listen to a short 3-minute audio tour about Towsley and the creation of her statue by clicking here.
This is what Towsley’s statue looks out upon — another art installation with a positive message on the corner of Chicago & Washington in Naperville, IL. Notice the mural on the building in the background.
*The second such statue, honoring Gwendolyn Brooks, was unveiled in Chicago this summer. Although Brooks doesn’t have a pen in hand or typewriter at her fingertips, she is depicted in a thinking position, which is part of a writer’s work. Click here to see photos of my visit to that statue.
Photos taken by me in July 2018. Please contact me for permission to use.
P.S. I wrote this on my Facebook page:
This is one of the most important statues I’ve ever seen.
1. It celebrates a woman.
2. It celebrates a woman writer.
3. It celebrates an old woman (72).
4. It depicts a woman writer at work.
5. It depicts an old person doing something active with her mind and body.
Why do I think its important?
Obviously, it is an important message to girls that women can pursue creative work. But one of the most important things this statue does is show younger people that older people are vibrant, have active minds, can still work, can pursue creative endeavors, etc.
I’ve heard young people (some of whom wouldn’t dream of saying racists, sexist, homophobic things) make horribly ageist statements. Statements that dismiss the humanity of the elderly (“the elderly” being anyone of their parents’ generation or older). Maybe this statue will help them see that old people still have an inner fire and something to contribute.
This statue might also help middle-aged people realize they can still do something important, or something they love, into their elderly years — even if they sometimes feel like they’re starting to show up on the edge of the grim reaper’s radar screen.