Though there are only a handful of monuments in New York City that are dedicated to real, non-fictional women, more are in the works. In 2019, the City of New York announced the She Built NYC initiative. Seven new monuments dedicated to real women in New York will be placed throughout the five boroughs to honor “trailblazing women whose extraordinary contributions forever changed New York City.”
The women who will get sculptures first are: Billie Holiday, whose career elevated jazz in New York City, will be in Queens. Elizabeth Jennings Graham, whose landmark court case contributed to ending transit segregation in New York City, will be in Manhattan. Dr. Helen Rodríguez Trías, who was the first Latina director of the American Public Health Association and awarded the Presidential Citizens Medal, will be in the Bronx. Katherine Walker, the keeper of the Robbins Reef Lighthouse who saved at least fifty lives in guiding vessels to safety through the channel between Staten Island and New Jersey, will be in Staten Island. A monument to Shirley Chisholm, the first black woman elected to Congress, will be erected in Brooklyn. Meanwhile, here are the current ladies who grace the streets and parks of New York City:
1. The Eleanor Roosevelt Monument
The Eleanor Roosevelt Monument is located in Riverside Park at 72nd street. Sculptor Penelope Jencks dedicated the monument on October 5, 1996 in the presence of the First Lady at the time, Hilary Rodham Clinton. Eleanor Roosevelt involved herself in numerous humanitarian causes such as visiting United States troops abroad, helping the country’s poor, and standing against racial discrimination. The monument was commissioned by the City of New York, the State of New York, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument Fund.
Eleanor Roosevelt was a highly active citizen in New York City since her birth and maintained a long presence in this city. In her years before the White House, Eleanor served as a volunteer teacher for impoverished immigrant children at Manhattan’s Rivington Street Settlement House. Eleanor taught American history and literature at a private Manhattan girls’ school in the beginning of her husband’s political career in New York City. You can read about the many apartments that Eleanor lived in (as well as other Roosevelts) here.