She Built NYC

She Built NYC: Seven Trailblazers Selected for Monuments Around City

Currently, only five out of New York City's 150 statues of historic figures depict women. She Built NYC was launched to rectify that imbalance and ensure that New York’s full story is told for generations to come.

The first group of She Built NYC honorees was selected through an open call that drew over 2,000 nominations from the public:
  • Rep. Shirley Chisholm (Brooklyn)
  • Billie Holiday (Queens)
  • Elizabeth Jennings Graham (Manhattan)
  • Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías (Bronx)
  • Katherine Walker (Staten Island)
  • Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera (Manhattan)

Meet the team designing the Shirley Chisholm Statue

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See the list of She Built NYC women nominees

See Nominees

Brooklyn Shirley Chisholm (1924-2005)

Shirley Chisholm 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 (1915-1959)

Billie Holiday 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.

Manhattan Elizabeth Jennings Graham (1827-1901)

Elizabeth Jennings Graham 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.

Bronx Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías (1929-2001)

Dr. Helen Rodriguez Trías 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.

Staten Island Katherine Walker (1838-1941)

Katherine Walker, 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.

Manhattan Marsha P. Johnson (1945-1992)

Marsha P. Johnson was an activist whose involvement in the 1969 Stonewall Riots helped pave the way toward trans acceptance. Born in Elizabeth, NJ, Johnson moved to New York City after high school with just $15 and a bag of clothes. Though she struggled with homelessness, Johnson devoted her life to advocating for gay and transgender street youth, sex workers and people with HIV/AIDS, co-founding STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) with her good friend Sylvia Rivera. Towering in red plastic heels and floral wigs, Johnson was a captivating figure who caught the attention of Andy Warhol, who photographed her.

Manhattan Sylvia Rivera (1951-2002)

Sylvia Rivera was a pioneering transgender advocate whose radical activism was inspired by her own life. Abandoned by her father at birth and orphaned at age 3 when her mother committed suicide, Rivera was raised in NYC by her Venezuelan grandmother. She left home at age 11 to escape criticism of her gender-defying ways and lived on the streets, surviving as a sex worker. Following her involvement in the 1969 Stonewall riots, she and her longtime friend Marsha P. Johnson cofounded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) to help homeless youth. Rivera also fought for transgender legal protections in New York City and Albany.

Frequently Asked Questions

Groups interested in proposing a monument should start with the Public Design Commission’s requirements and guidelines for privately-funded monuments and memorials, and NYC Parks’ guidelines for donating public artwork.

The City will consider proposals that are 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.

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 [email protected].

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 [email protected].

To learn more about the City's process for commissioning permanent public artwork, visit