When the DowntownDC BID announced the callbox design competition in 2017, the Charles Bergen team saw an opportunity to right a historic wrong: the exclusion of women from outdoor public art. Although female figures abound in Washington, almost all are allegorical and less than a handful depict people who actually lived. Team historian Mara Cherkasky chose women with ties to Downtown, carefully including individuals from various eras and walks of life. Over two summers, sculptor Charles Bergen and interns from the Marion Barry Summer Jobs Program designed and executed the artwork in time for installation during the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which granted women voting rights.
Callboxes were used throughout the District from the mid-19th century until 1976, when the 911 system arrived. Fire callboxes, distinguished by their harp shape, held a switch people could pull down to report a fire. Police callboxes—there’s only one on this tour, at 13th and G—held a locked compartment containing a telephone receiver or switch that officers used to contact headquarters.