Recent research has shown that only five of New York City’s 150 statues of historic figures depict women, and many other cities are just as bad. This week WomenArts reports on three arts initiatives that address these sad statistics – She Built NYC, the New Shokan Kitchen Island Project, and the Boston Women’s History Heritage Trail.
In June 2018 New York City’s First Lady Chirlane McCray and former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen launched She Built NYC, a public art project designed to raise the percentage of women’s statues in New York City from less than 1% to 50%.
She Built NYC is a program of Women NYC, which aims to make New York City “the best place in the world for women to succeed.” WomenArts commends them for recognizing that women and girls will be more inspired to succeed when there are more monuments of strong female role models in their daily environments.
She Built NYC is working with private partners on the design, creation, and installation of statues of women around the city. They are currently moving forward with statues of seven women: Representative Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman to serve in Congress and the first African-American woman to campaign for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president of the United States, jazz legend Billie Holiday, desegregation activist Elizabeth Jennings Graham, women’s rights activist Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías, Robbins Reef Lighthouse keeper Katherine Walker, and trans LGBTQ advocates Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera.
Read more about these amazing women on the She Built NYC website>>
The New Shokan Kitchen Island Project (NSKIP) has responded to the lack of women’s statues by asking women and women-identifying writers to create short monologues about women who deserve to be honored.
They sought a broad array of suggestions from writers and others about statue-worthy women, especially women who are Black, Indigenous, People of Color, or Latinx. They will be presenting 26 plays over four evenings in their free Put Women On a Pedestal StatueFest.
Their first presentation will be on March 19 at 7 pm EDT on Zoom and it will feature six short solo plays:
- Bea Arthur (Actor & Activist) – by Allison Fradkin, performed by Joan McGrath
- Mabel Ping Hua Lee (Suffragist) – by Lucy Wang, performed by Ashley Chiu
- Barbara McClintock (Scientist/Nobelist) – by Judith Pratt, performed by Carolyn Cadigan
- Augusta Savage (Sculptor) – by Renee’ Flemings, performed by Renee’ Flemings
- Clara Leimlich Shavelson (Union Leader) – by Pauline David-Sax, performed by Lydia Gladstone
- Maria Tallchief (Prima Ballerina) – by Laura Shamas, performed by DeLanna
WomenArts notes that a number of the playwrights in this series deserve statues of their own for their decades of work as feminist arts activists. We especially salute our long-time colleagues Cindy Cooper (Repro Freedom Arts), Laura Shamas (Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative), Lorca Peress (League of Professional Theatre Women), Deborah Savadge (Women In Theatre Journal), Carolyn Gage (lesbian theatre activist), and Magdalena Gomez (former WomenArts board member and Latina activist).
Put Women On A Pedestal StatueFest
Plays: See the complete list of 26 plays>>
Dates: March 19, April 16, May 21, and June 8, 2021 at 7 p.m. EDT
Reservations: Send an email to StatueFest2021@gmail.com.
In this charming 4-minute video, photographer and public historian Susan Wilson introduces highlights from the Boston Women’s Heritage Trail, including the statues of poet Phyllis Wheatley, First Lady Abigail Adams, and suffragist and abolitionist Lucy Stone.
WomenArts was delighted to learn from this video that the iconic SWAN Boats in Boston were managed by Julia Paget for 36 years after the death of her husband in 1878. Paget was one of the first major female business owners in Boston, and she created a business that has survived for 142 years! Hurray for women who love SWANS!!