This year’s theme for National Women’s History Month is “Working to Form a More Perfect Union: Honoring Women in Public Service and Government.” As we consider the service of women, here are 9 accomplishments, remembrances, readings, performances, exhibits and monuments to learn about, see and consider.
1. Visiting Monuments to Women Around New York City
The monument to Gertrude Stein (above and below) can be seen on the upper terrace of Bryant Park, 40th/42nd Streets and Fifth Avenue to Avenue of the Americas. Ms. Stein gained fame as a novelist, poet and playwright. She moved to Paris in 1903, where she remained for the rest of her life.
The Eleanor Roosevelt Monument honors the humanitarian and First Lady. It is said to be the first monument to an American President’s wife, and was dedicated in 1996. The monument is located at 72nd Street on Riverside Drive.
The Harriet Tubman Monument was dedicated in 2008 as part of the Department of Cultural Affairs Percent for Art program. It commemorates her fight against slavery, risking her own freedom making thirteen missions to rescue more than seventy enslaved families and friends, using safe houses known as the Underground Railroad. Located on West 122nd Street, at the intersection of St. Nicholas and Frederick Douglass Boulevard, it is still a question why she faces south.
The Joan of Arc Monument, located at 93rd Street and Riverside Drive, was part of an Adopt-a-Monument program in 1987 – a joint partnership between the Municipal Art Society (MAS), the Department of Parks & Recreation, and the Art Commission of the City of New York.
Golda Meir was an Israeli teacher, stateswoman and the fourth Prime Minister of Israel. A bust was commissioned by the Jewish Community Relations Council of NYC (JCRC), and the City of New York, where it was on view at Golda Meir Memorial Square between 39th/40th Streets on Broadway since 1984. We passed by the plaza recently and noticed it was gone. Perhaps a reader can fill us in.
2. Remembering the Triangle Factory Fire
The Shirtwaist Factory Fire took place on March 25, 1911 in the Asch Building (now part of NYU) which was located at 23-29 Washington Place in Greenwich Village. The factory operated on the eighth, ninth, and tenth floors. 146 garment workers died in that fire, and 123 of them were women. This year the non-profit organization Remember The Triangle Fire will hold a commemoration presented by Workers United/SEIU (ILGWU), which will be held on March 23 at Washington Place and Green Street. This is a free event that will run from 11:30 am to 1 pm. In addition, there will be a number of tours and discussion panels as part of this commemoration.
3. Fiery Ladies: Radical Women of the Lower East Side
Celebrating Women’s History Month, Lower East Side Jewish Conservancy and the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation will be hosting a panel discussion entitled Fiery Ladies: Radical Women of the Lower East Side, about the lives of such notable figures as Emma Goldman, Lillian Wald, Rose Pastor Stokes, Clara Lemich and others. They will be exploring the timely issues of women’s voting, reproductive rights, workers’ rights, early labor movements, and political activism.
4. Vigèe Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France at the Met
Her name was Elisabeth Louise Vigee Le Brun, born in Paris in 1755. She was to become the most well-known portraitist of the 18th century in France. She was known for her loose brushwork and bright colors, and her clientele included aristocracy and royalty. In 1779 she painted her first portrait of Marie Antoinette, which led to 29 more paintings of the queen over the next decade. It was Marie Antoinette who paved the way for Le Brun’s acceptance into the Academie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, France’s most prestigious professional association for artists, and an association that included very few women.
An interesting footnote to her life is that her French citizenship was revoked when she left the country during the Revolution, because of her close association with the queen. Her husband, who was the leading art dealer in Paris at the time, was forced to divorce her on the grounds of desertion. She did eventually return to Paris and they were reunited, although never remarried. Her fellow artists successfully petitioned to have her citizenship renewed. Vigee Le Brun’s fame and success was rare for a female artist in those times. She published her memoirs, titled Souvenirs in three volumes during the 1830’s, and died in her home in Paris in 1842.
Vine Le Brun: Woman Artist in Revolutionary France will be on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through May 15, 2016.
5. Women in the Heights – Transitions
In celebration of Women’s History Month, The Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance in partnership with Broadway Housing Communities, and The Sugar Hill Children’s Museum of Art and Storytelling present the art exhibit, Women in the Heights – Transitions. The exhibit will feature the work of thirty women artists in uptown Manhattan, with an opening reception to be held on March 4th from 6-9 pm.
Women in the Heights – Transitions will be on view through March 29th, located at Rio III Gallery, Sugar Hill Building, 898 St. Nicholas Avenue at 155th Street, 9th Floor. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
6. Sweat Equity: Women in the Garment Industry
Hosted by the New York Historical Society, Sweat Equity: Women in the Garment Industry is a day-long event held in honor of Women’s History Month that will explore the garment industry and its historical impact on women. We understand that the event, which is presented by The Center for the Study of Women’s History, and scheduled for March 6th, is sold out, but it’s worth a mention.
7. Wearing the Trousers – During World War I
A wonderful photography exhibit entitled Fashion & Freedom will be opening at the Manchester Art Gallery in the United Kingdom this coming May. The photographs represent so much of women in history that we are including a sneak peek for all of you who won’t be traveling there to see the show. The photos on view are of women at work on the home-front during the First World War, driving buses and ambulances, working in factories, making weapons and ammunition. As necessity often becomes the mother of invention, women’s fashion was abruptly altered from corsets and skirts to trousers and headscarves.
While these photographs are of women at work on another continent, it was no less true of women during wartime in our own country. World War I brought nearly three million women into the food, textile and war industries by 1918. As our men went off to war, women were forced to take on new rolls. It was the women who worked as streetcar conductors, radio operators and in the steel mills. In addition to new fashion, there was a new vocabulary, as women working farms were referred to as farmerettes, and women who joined the armed forces were known as yeomanettes. With this new way of living and working, women now had their own money and became increasingly independent. Women’s history abounds in the exhibit Fashion & Freedom.
8. The Art of the Burqa at Pen + Brush
For Pen + Brush, Inc., every day is a celebration of women in the arts. On March 6th from 3-5 pm, they will be co-hosting the event The Art of the Burqa. It will be a day of short films, artwork, poetry readings, and conversations between the artists and writers who collaborated on an issue of Of Note Magazine entitled The Burqa issue. It is also a chance for attendees to look beyond the clothing, and hear directly from women who are wearing burqas every day. In addition to Pen + Brush and Of Note Magazine, the Afghan Women’s Writing Project (AWWP) is also hosting this event. This is a free event but an RSVP is required. Pen + Brush, Inc. is located at 29 East 22nd Street.
Also on tap at Pen + Brush, the launch of the Women’s Writing Circle, which will take place on March 7th from 7-9 pm. The WWC will gather monthly to share work, offer feedback, network, and support from drafting to publication.
9. Before It Was Monopoly, It Was The Landlord’s Game
If you would have been alive around 1903, you might possibly have played the board game known as The Landlord’s Game. Created by Elizabeth Magie, it was designed to demonstrate the “ill effects of land monopolism and the use of land value tax as remedy for them.” Ms. Magie, a newspaper publisher and abolitionist, applied for, and was granted a patent on her board game on January 5, 1904. In 1906, she moved from Brentwood, Maryland to Chicago, where she formed the Economic Game Company, publishing her original edition of the game, as well as other games like the humorous card game Mock Trial.
The Landlord’s Game was wildly popular and was being played at some colleges, where students were making their own copies. In an attempt to keep control, since her original patent expired in 1921, a revised version of the game was patented in 1924. In 1932 her second edition was published, and in 1936, Parker Brothers began publishing her games. The Parker Brothers version of The Landlord’s Game is extremely hard to find today. Ms. Magie’s patents were discovered several decades later by an economic professor who was doing research for a trial, and in 1973 when he began a lengthy legal battle against Parker Brothers over his Anti-Monopoly game, he came across the Elizabeth Magie original patents. Her patents are part of the court records, and now recognized as being the precursor to Monopoly.