Let’s face it. New York City’s collection of famous statues and memorials — from its parks to its public plazas — resembles a stodgy fraternity.
There are very few public commemorations honoring the great women of New York City. Oh there are hundreds of women in statue form of course — many of them nude goddesses or caryatids danging from Gilded Age architecture. Audrey Munson, the model for many of these, has perhaps the most recognizable female form in architecture.
The city has taken note of this pathetic disparity, opening up suggestions for new public art at She Built NYC! Through August 1, people can submit ideas for public commemorations of famous women they would like to see. And this morning the New York Times also took on the challenge, asking its readers for some suggestions.
The Bowery Boys would like to influence this debate! We humbly submit the following five women (well, four women and one group of women) for consideration. Hopefully you’ll agree with our sentiments and will help us campaign for these important figures in New York City history. We will be promoting these choices throughout the month of July on social media.
For more information on each, we’re linking to our past podcasts that were devoted to these stories.
To submit your choices, visit She Built NYC! and fill out a short form.
WHO? The trailblazing writer who redefined daredevil journalism, exposing the Gilded Age’s most criminal abuses.
WHY HER? She broke all the molds for how New York City women should conduct themselves in the 19th century.
WHERE TO PUT HER STATUE? Roosevelt Island or City Hall Park (near the former offices of the New York World newspaper)
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Episode #196 Nellie Bly: Undercover In The Madhouse
WHO? The iconic jazz vocalist whose influence over modern music is sometimes overshadowed by her tragic life.
WHY HER? Her career unites the New York City music scenes of the 20th century — Jazz Age Harlem, the integrated music clubs of Greenwich Village, the late night jazz clubs of Midtown Manhattan
WHERE TO PUT HER STATUE? 52nd Street aka Swing Street. Her statue could also serve as a reminder of this former almost-forgotten music district.
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Episode #176 Billie Holiday’s New York
WHO? The urban activist and writer who changed the way we live in cities and fought to preserve Greenwich Village in the 1950s and ’60s.
WHY HER? Perhaps no other New York community activist has had such influence on the way American cities are planned and lived in today.
WHERE TO PUT HER COMMEMORATION? Washington Square Park or a plaza in the West Village. (It should be noted that Jacobs did not actively want a statue of herself placed anywhere so any commemoration would have to be to her work.)
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Episode #200 Jane Jacobs: Saving the Village
WHO? In 1867, Sarah Breedlove was born to parents who had once been enslaved on a Louisiana plantation. Less than fifty years later, Breedlove (as the hair care mogul Madam C.J. Walker) would be the richest African-American woman in the United States, a successful business owner and one of black America’s great philanthropists.
WHY HER? She shattered barriers for both women and African-Americans and helped develop Harlem as America’s black mecca — just in time for the Harlem Renaissance
WHERE TO PUT HER STATUE? On 136th Street (the site of her home and salon) or — to honor her role as a savvy business woman — near Wall Street
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Episode #249 Madam C. J. Walker, Harlem’s Hair Care Millionaire
WHO? On June 15, 1904, over a thousand residents (mostly women and children) of Kleindeutschland, the Lower East Side’s thriving German community, died when the General Slocum excursion steamer caught fire in the East River.
WHY THEM? The General Slocum disaster is, simply put, one of the greatest tragedies in American history. In particular, more women died in this tragedy than in any other event in New York City history — before September 11, 2001. And yet the only marker to this horrible moment is a faded fountain tucked away in Tompkins Square Park.
WHERE TO PUT THEIR COMMEMORATION? The East Village — perhaps in the park near the little fountain
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Episode #166 The General Slocum Disaster