She Built NYC to design more statues of women

Courtesy of She Built NYC  A monument for Elizabeth Jennings Graham, a 19th century anti-segregationist, will be erected next to Grand Central Station.

Courtesy of She Built NYC

A monument for Elizabeth Jennings Graham, a 19th century anti-segregationist, will be erected next to Grand Central Station.

Due to lack of female statues in New York City, five more statues of historically significant women will be added to the city with the efforts of First Lady Chirlane McCray and She Built NYC. Of the current 150 statues in New York City, only five represent important female figures: Gertrude Stein, Joan of Arc, Eleanor Roosevelt, Golda Meir and Harriet Tubman in different parts of Manhattan, according to She Built NYC, a city public art initiative.

“Throughout New York City history, there have been hundreds of women who have influenced public life but have not gotten the recognition they deserve. With She Built NYC, we are changing this unacceptable status quo and are proud to finally correct this historical wrong,” said Faye Penn, executive director of women.nyc.

The organization received more than 2,000 public nominations to determine the five new female statues that will be placed in each borough. Each woman made her own impact on New York City.

Billie Holiday, whose statue will be near Queens Borough Hall, was a jazz vocalist who challenged racial barriers during her lifetime.

Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman elected to Congress and first woman to seek presidential nomination of a major party, will have her statue erected at the entrance of Prospect Park, Brooklyn.

Next to Grand Central Station will be Elizabeth Jennings Graham’s statue, honoring her efforts to fight racial segregation by suing the Third Avenue Railroad Company for not accepting
black passengers.

Dr. Helen Rodríguez Trías was a women’s rights advocate who received the Presidential Citizen's Medal for her work on behalf of women, children and people with HIV and AIDS; her statue will be placed at St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx.

At the Staten Island Ferry Landing, Katherine Walker’s statue will honor her years as the keeper of the Robbins Reef Lighthouse, saving lives and guiding vessels through the channel between Staten Island and New Jersey.

New York City took a step to honor these women for their extraordinary work, but even with these new female statues, the ratio of male to female statues will be 14.5 to 1. When asked if their efforts will continue, Penn said, “We will absolutely keep pushing for more female representation in public spaces across the city. And we don’t plan to stop until there is gender parity. It’s hard to overstate the importance of ensuring that our statues reflect the city’s population demographics.”

The organization announced that the list of nominations will be used as a database to help select future monuments. There are also opportunities for private donors to contribute.

“The public has been overwhelmingly supportive of the She Built NYC initiative. Many people didn’t realize that there were so few women statues and monuments throughout the city. Now that there is more awareness around this issue, we have legions of New Yorkers supporting our efforts,” added Penn, pointing to the campaign’s success in raising civil awareness and support.

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