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What Does the Statue of Liberty Represent? Things You Should Know

The Statue of Liberty is one of the defining icons of the United States of America. Standing at a whopping 305 feet tall, Lady Liberty stands guard in the New York Harbor on Liberty Island.


You might have had the pleasure of visiting this neoclassical structure before, but even if you have not, here are the reasons behind what this monument means towards the United States and why it is so important.

 

Background

For those of us who aren’t familiar, the Statue of Liberty was indeed given to the United States of America by the French people to celebrate 100 years of the USA being an independent nation. The connection between France and the United States remained strong due to their alliance during the American Revolution a century beforehand. 


Designed by a French sculptor named Frederic Auguste Barthioli, this incredible feat of mankind took nine years to complete by French workers before being shipped off to the United States and revealed on October 28, 1886. The structure actually had to be assembled, then dismembered in order to travel across the ocean. Once it reached America, it was then reconstructed prior to its unveiling.

 

Welcome to America

Due to the longevity of Lady Liberty’s existence, she was around prior to air travel for a period of time. During these earlier years, her physical representation was on notice for travelers and immigrants entering the United States through the New York Harbor. Her appearance symbolized freedom for those looking for a new life in America.


She was also intentionally placed facing Southeast, inside of Fort Wood. Not only was she a representation of many things to incoming people, but a large landmark that made it very easy for ships to navigate into the country.

 

Hope

Due to the proximity of where the Statue of Liberty was situated near Ellis Island in the New York Harbor, immigrants entering the United States often associated its meaning as one of hope and opportunity. People coming to America were, in most cases, leaving a situation behind that they deemed less desirable than what they were hoping to find across the Atlantic Ocean.


The United States, often referred to as “The land of opportunity,” provided immigration inspection to close to 12 million people coming through Ellis Island for approximately 20 years, stalling after the construction of the Immigration Act of 1924.

 

Symbolism

Aside from Lady Liberty’s celebration of the French-American alliance that was coming up on 100 years at that point in time, her physique and appearance were designed after the Roman goddess Libertas.


Libertas herself is known for representing freedom from tyranny and oppression. Similar to the United States’ core values that also represent freedom and democracy, the Statue of Liberty stands for many of those similar ideas. 

 

Right Foot

The statue’s right foot is raised as though she is constantly on the move, seeking freedom for all those who seek it. Similar to the United States flag, the Statue of Liberty is a tool to bring people together and unify them around the core ideas of freedom, peace, and opportunity. This further elaborates the idea that the United States will continue to influence the globe with this ideology, as it is one of the values upon which we were founded.

 

The Torch

Lady Liberty has her right arm raised to the sky with a torch bore in her hand. Replaced in 1986, this copper flame is covered in 24-carat gold and is clearly visible during daylight hours from the sun’s rays beaming off of it, whereas it uses a floodlit approach during darker hours.


This part of the statue is commonly referred to as the “forever-lit torch” due to the symbolic light that it displays to the world. Again, similar to the United States, this monument represents the ways in which our nation attempts to spread out an ideology to other places around the globe that do not practice the same freedoms that we have the privilege of using in our country. The statue’s official name is technically “Liberty Enlightening the World.” This serves as a reminder that it lights the way to freedom through the path of liberty for all.

 

Chains

The Statue of Liberty represented the enlightenment ideology and symbolized the democratic government that so many people were appealed to, but it was also a celebration of the Union’s victory over the Confederacy in the Civil War. A French political thinker by the name of Edouard de Laboulaye was the one who first entertained the thought of the French giving the United States this great monument. He was an outspoken abolitionist, United States Constitution expert, and supporter of President Abraham Lincoln.


Laboulaye not only despised slavery and saw this statue as a way to highlight moral values, but he thought it would be a way to protest the oppressive tendencies in his home country and around the world.


Once the Emancipation Proclamation was signed in 1865, Laboulaye’s dreams turned into reality. His foundation, the French Anti-Slavery Society, pushed for a global end to slavery and also aided newly freed American slaves with funds. The broken shackle on Lady Liberty’s left foot was a powerful image.


The United States is truly a living and breathing representation of her citizens. While we all work harder to maintain the values that our Founding Fathers instilled in our Constitution and believed in, Lady Liberty continues to be a beacon of hope for those around the world. As a country, we continue to push for equality at home and abroad, and Lady Liberty stands tall, encouraging us along our way. 

 

Writing on the Monument

There is a famous poem actually associated with the Statue of Liberty, written by none other than Emma Lazarus, titled “New Colossus.” This body of work was written in an attempt to fundraise money for a pedestal for the monument to be placed upon, which was obviously a burdened success.


Once Lazarus passed away in 1900, one of her close friends campaigned to memorialize her, which also came to fruition as her poem was mounted on the pedestal itself. Its famous finishing lines read, “Send these, homeless, tempest-tossed to me,/ I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


This symbolizes the freedoms that the United States offers to those looking for new opportunities around the world who venture to our country. Although this poem is not actually presented upon Lady Liberty herself, there is a bit of text that is only identified on the tablet she’s holding with her left hand, which reads “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI,” which translates to July 4, 1776.


Yes, that’s correct; she is holding the date on which the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the United States, thus inciting the American Revolution and the beginning to our country becoming the free nation that it is today!

 

 

Lady Liberty

Finally, the Statue of Liberty is one of the most famous man-made landmarks to ever be created in the history of the human race. Not only is it aesthetically remarkable given its immense size and intricate design, this monument gifted to our country by the people of France over two centuries ago represents a large array of hidden meanings. This massive structure serves as a symbol of hope, freedom, and equal opportunity to all those who choose to venture to the United States and join our great nation.


During times of mass immigration in the late 19th and early 20th century, people would travel across the Atlantic Ocean to “The land of opportunity” to start their new lives and view Lady Liberty as soon as they could see land. Her appearance designed after the Roman Goddess Libertas symbolized freedom from tyranny, while her right foot, tablet, torch, and broken chains also personified the enlightenment that our country has in providing a path towards liberty and abolishing slavery. 


She is a celebration of our Union’s Civil War victory and a reminder of the tangible friendship formed with France a century prior to its construction for helping create the great country we know today as America: the land of the free and the home of the brave.


Representations of our country help encourage patriotism and pride. When looking for American flags that support the spirit of Lady Liberty, look for Allegiance. We made American-made flags made by skilled seamstresses here in our great country. American-made products are a shining example of the promise of the United States: we are the land of opportunity. 

 

Sources:

 

Lady Liberty & Immigration | The City Reliquary

History of the Statue of Liberty | How Tall is the Statue of Liberty?

Statue of Liberty - National Monument New York | National Park Service

What is the quote on the Statue of Liberty? | How Tall is the Statue of Liberty?

The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus | Poetry Foundation