~by Katie Honan, WALL STREET JOURNAL
Across New York City, there are nearly 150 statues that honor men and just five dedicated to women.
A citywide initiative plans to shift the ratio and will start with a statue of Shirley Chisholm, the first black congresswoman in the U.S., who represented New York’s 12 congressional district which at the time was centered in Brooklyn.
The statue honoring Ms. Chisholm who ran for president in 1972, is the first selected through a city-led initiative called She Built NYC, which was created to commission a public monument or piece of art that honors women’s history.
In June, the city asked New Yorkers to submit nominations of inspirational and influential women. They received 326 eligible nominations representing a diverse list of women, from celebrities to schoolteachers to suffragettes.
The woman who received the most nominations through She Built NYC was St. Frances Xavier Cabrini, known as Mother Cabrini, who founded the Missionary Sisters and was a supporter of Italian immigrants. Author and activist Jane Jacobs came in second, and Ms. Chisholm came in third.
Emily Warren Roebling, credited for helping complete the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge after her husband became ill, and Katherine Walker, who tended to the Robbins Reef Lighthouse in New York Harbor for nearly 30 years after she was widowed, were in the top 10.
General groups of women made the list as well: single mothers, the nuns and nurses at the now-closed St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, domestic workers, women of the city’s jazz scene, and the group who advocated to allow women into McSorley’s Old Ale House, which was men-only until 1970.
WOMEN WHO CURRENTLY HAVE STATUES IN NYC
Joan of Arc
“The nearly 2,000 submissions spanned NYC history and included women ranging from elected officials to artists to lighthouse keepers—pretty much all of them deserving of a monument of her own,” Ms. Glen said.
Harriet Senie, an art professor at City College and the Graduate Center who was a member of the working group for She Built NY, said the long list of nominees showed how the city has ignored some of its most influential women.
She and other members of the committee felt the city could buck tradition and create group monuments, focusing on themes like women in politics, which would honor Ms. Chisholm as well as Constance Baker Motley, Bella Abzug and Victoria Woodhull.
The group also suggested a monument to both Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson, transgender advocates who launched the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries, as well as a monument for indigenous women, among others.
Ms. Senie said she hoped the city would consider group memorials moving forward.
“I think it’s important that people start discussing memorials in different ways,” she said. “History is a flow. It takes many people to effect change.”
Write to Katie Honan at firstname.lastname@example.org