We all know that women are scarcely visible in history, that many fields are still largely male-dominated, that pay gaps are well and truly still alive, and that gender inequality is still clear and pervasive. As if that isn't enough, among all monuments flaunting worldwide, where are the women? It’s ”a man’s world, even in stone”. The statement declared by a contributor for The Times back in 1952 seems just as relevant today, 67 years later.
With around 150 statues boasting on the streets of New York, only five are dedicated to women. Thanks to the new initiative She Built NYC, which aims to address the unequal balance of statues in public spaces, the next two years will see instalments of four statues commemorating some true female trailblazers.
The city will be welcoming iconic singer Billie Holiday, teacher and civil rights activist Elizabeth Jennings Graham who challenged segregation in public transport a century before Rosa Parks; physician and educator Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trias – an outspoken advocate for women’s and children's right to healthcare, as well as lighthouse keeper Katherine Walker who saved the life of at least 50 sailors. Additionally, it was announced last fall that Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American congresswoman and the first woman and African-American to enter the Democratic presidential race, will be memorialised.
Helmed by Women.NYC, the campaign aspires to honour women who have played an important role in shaping the city as we know it today, as well as elucidate the absence of women statues, which arguably is a worldwide issue. Considering the fact that a mere 20% of all statues in the UK honour women, we can only hope that our transatlantic friends will inspire more cities to give remarkable women their well-deserved pedestal.