She Built NYC Honors Five Trailblazing Women With Statues Around City

She Built NYC is commissioning statues of five trailblazing women whose extraordinary contributions forever changed New York City.

Statues of Rep. Shirley Chisholm, Billie Holiday, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías, and Katherine Walker will be installed throughout the city’s five boroughs. They are the result of She Built NYC, a campaign launched to honor women who have shaped New York City while addressing the absence of female statues in our public spaces.

Just five out of 150 statues in New York currently depict women.

She Built NYC aims to address the gap by ensuring that half of the city’s monuments depict women or subjects related to women’s history.

The first group of She Built NYC statues were selected through an open call that drew over 2,000 nominations from the public.

VIEW THE LIST OF NOMINEES

Brooklyn

Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005) was a political pioneer; she became the first black woman elected to Congress, where she represented New York’s 12th Congressional District for seven terms (1969 to 1983). In 1972, she made history again by becoming the first black woman to run for the presidential nomination of a major party. With her trademark slogan, “unbought and unbossed,” Chisholm paved the way for women of all backgrounds to run for public office. Her statue is being erected at the entrance of Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

Queens

Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan Gough, 1915-1959) is among the world’s preeminent jazz singers. Her career elevated New York’s ‘swing sing’ jazz scene to international prominence while challenging racial barriers. One of the first black women to sing with a white orchestra, Holiday struck out on her own with “Strange Fruit,” a protest song about lynching. Her career was recognized with four posthumous Grammy Awards and induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Holiday’s statue will be placed near Queens Borough Hall.

Manhattan

Elizabeth Jennings Graham (1827-1901) challenged racial segregation well before the Civil Rights Movement when, on July 16, 1854, she boarded a streetcar that prohibited black passengers and refused to leave until forcibly removed by the police. Graham later won $225 in damages after successfully suing the Third Avenue Railroad Company, the conductor, and the streetcar driver. Her landmark case was the first step toward ending transit segregation in the City. Graham’s monument will be erected next to Grand Central Station.

Bronx

Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías (1929-2001) was a pioneer in pediatrics and public health who was dedicated to issues related to reproductive rights and HIV/AIDS care and prevention. As a women’s rights advocate, she fought to end enforced sterilization and advocated for neonatal care for underserved people. She served as medical director of NY State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute and was the first Latina director of the American Public Health Association. In 2001, President Bill Clinton awarded her the Presidential Citizens Medal. Rodriguez Trías’s statue will be erected at St. Mary’s Park in the Bronx.

Staten Island

Katherine Walker (1838-1941), the keeper of Robbins Reef Lighthouse, is credited with saving the lives of at least 50 people and guiding countless vessels to safety through Kill Van Kull, the channel between Staten Island and Bayonne, NJ. She raised two children at the lighthouse, rowing them back and forth to attend school in Staten Island. Her story sheds light on women working in the city’s marine industry as well as her contributions to the infrastructure of the shipping industry, which was critical to the city’s economy for centuries. Walker’s statue will be erected at Staten Island Ferry Landing.

Q&A

Future monuments — whether publicly funded, privately funded, or a combination — will be selected from the list of women and women-related events that were nominated by the public.The City will work with relevant City agencies to pair potential subjects with available and viable sites.

As funding is made available, these pairings will be brought to the She Built NYC agency advisory board, consisting of representatives from relevant City agencies, offices and entities. When deciding upon future monuments, the advisory board will consider the public nominations list, including trends in the data; borough and subject diversity; site availability and appropriateness; and existing monuments within the City’s collection.

The City will consider proposals for monuments that are on the public nomination list, fully funded, and include a maintenance endowment. With a limited number of available sites, subject to a variety of competing uses, not every proposed project will be approved. Priority will be given to new monuments that fill gaps in the City’s collection.

The proposal must be endorsed by the agency with jurisdiction over the proposed site, and will then be brought before the She Built NYC agency advisory board. Should the advisory board, upon review of a proposal, grant its conceptual endorsement, the appropriate agency staff will work with the sponsors to convene an artist selection panel and prepare the necessary design submission documents to the Public Design Commission.

Approval from both the lead agency (or, the agency with jurisdiction over the proposed site) and the Public Design Commission of the City of New York is required for all permanent installations. Additional information about Public Design Commission requirements and review can be found here.

In certain circumstances, local community board and/or Landmarks Preservation Commission review is additionally required. Agency staff will advise sponsors and assist with presentations at such public hearings.

Funders should send proposals and inquiries to shebuilt@women.nyc.

The City will make available opportunities for private donors to contribute to existing monument endowment funds or monument projects already underway. If you are interested in donating, please contact shebuilt@women.nyc.

Public nominations will serve as the “database” from which future monuments will be selected. Any She Built NYC monument must be on that list. We will open up the nomination form at least once every five years so that new names can be added. This means the form will open again on or before June 2020.

Have more questions? Email us at shebuilt@women.nyc.