The She Built NYC! campaign, a new program from the Mayor’s Office and the Department of Cultural Affairs, seeks to commission “a public monument or artwork on city property with a focus on women’s history.” The Bowery Boys would like to put our two cents into this debate and we’ve recently presented five nominees for this honor.
And we’ve also heard from you the past few weeks. We’ve gone through your choices and selected our five favorites:
Elizabeth Jennings Graham
Graham is the sort of hero who really deserves this type of honor — a regular New Yorker who changed life in the city with her determination and resolve. In 1854 this African-American schoolteacher refused to give up her seat in a segregated streetcar; the court case, settled in 1855, desegregated New York’s streetcar system. They often call her New York’s Rosa Parks although it’s even more fair to say that Mrs. Parks was a latter day Elizabeth Jennings Graham.
Emily Warren Roebling
Far and away, Emily was the most popular choice with our readers and listeners. The wife of Brooklyn Bridge engineer Washington Roebling stepped in to help complete the construction of the bridge after her husband began suffering the effects of caisson’s disease. She is included with her husband and father-in-law John Roebling on a plaque. Perhaps it’s time to do something more for this titanic trio?
Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini
In the 1890s, Cabrini was a lifesaver to the New York Italian community at its moment of greatest need but she didn’t stop there. Her name is synonymous with Catholic education and health care across the country. Although she is enshrined in upper Manhattan — a truly fascinating building — Cabrini could use an additional thanks from the city for her tireless work. Perhaps they could put such an honor on Cabrini Boulevard?
As we mentioned, Munson’s perfect form can be found in statuary and ornamentation all over New York. She was one of America’s most famous artist’s models, a muse for Daniel Chester French, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and Alexander Sterling Calder, among many others. A statue to her would recognize her work in New York’s finest statues! It’s very meta.
Victims of the Triangle Factory Fire
Just as we suggested the victims of the General Slocum Disaster, the 146 people (mostly women and girls) who died in the Triangle Factory Fire blaze on March 22, 1911, deserve an additional tribute. Most lived in the Lower East Side, immigrants with few worker’s rights in the early 20th century. A sculptural artwork to their memory (perhaps placed in nearby Washington Square Park) would bring this important story in American history to people’s attention every time they passed by.
For more information on the Triangle Factory Fire, check out our back catalog podcast on the tragedy:
We’ll send all these choices — both yours and ours — to the nomination committee.