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What if all of New York City’s landmarks were named after women?

Photo: Hamilton/Joan Marcus

Conversations about the importance of female representation tend to center on movies, TV shows, books, and theater. But in a new piece for The New Yorker, writer Rebecca Solnit points out another area in which women are drastically underrepresented: statues and street names. From Madison Avenue to Rockefeller Center, the names of powerful men litter New York City in what Solnit refers to as “a manscape” (and not the kind Queer Eye For The Straight Guy popularized). That lack of representation is even worse with statues. Although unnamed female figures are often used in allegorical ways—most notably, the Statue Of Liberty—Solnit notes, “There are only five statues of named women in New York City: Joan Of Arc, Golda Meir, Gertrude Stein, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Har­riet Tubman, the last four added in the past third of a century. Until 1984, there was only one, the medieval Joan in Riverside Park, installed in 1915.”

Even if we accept that men had a lot more opportunities to make something of themselves in the past, it still seems like there should be more than five women worth celebrating in the entirety of American history (Jane Addams and Ella Baker can’t get some love?). To counterbalance all that male-centric history, Solnit teamed up with Joshua Jelly-Schapiro to create a New York City subway map that honors famous women from around the city. From Margaret Mead and Abigail Adams to Salt-N-Pepa and Joan Rivers, the “City Of Women” map “reflects the remarkable history of charismatic women who have shaped New York City from the beginning.”

Cartography by Molly Roy, from “Nonstop Metropolis,” by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro. Subway Route Symbols ® Metropolitan Transportation Authority

“I can’t imagine how I might have conceived of myself and my possibilities,” Solnit writes, “if, in my formative years, I had moved through a city where most things were named after women and many or most of the monuments were of powerful, successful, honored women.” You can read the rest of Solnit’s essay and zoom in on the map—which was created for Solnit and Jelly-Schapiro’s upcoming book Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas—over on the New Yorker’s website.

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