March is Women’s History Month, a good time to celebrate important NYC women and important women of history with connections to NYC by visiting the parks, gardens, playgrounds and a reservoir named for them.
The impressive list includes two First Ladies, a Revolutionary War heroine, an Olympic swimming champion, the mother of a British Prime Minister, the first African-American woman to be elected to Congress, and the first person to win two Nobel Prizes – all impressive, accomplished women.
Quite a group! There’s at least one in each borough named for a woman who changed NYC, even the world.
Celebrate International Women’s Day on March 8 – or any day by visiting one or more of the NYC parks dedicated to internationally famous and accomplished women.
In addition to naming parks for famous women, my hometown plans to erect statues in the next few years to prominent New York City women, who are sadly under-represented among NYC statues and monuments – only five of 150 monuments in NYC are to women.
The program She Built NYC seeks to correct that. See the nominees here, including crusading journalist Nellie Bly, urban planner Jane Jacobs and Emily Warren Roebling, who helped her husband build the Brooklyn Bridge.
Until the final decision is made, you can visit these NYC parks and gardens already named for prominent NYC women.
With just a few exceptions, these noteworthy women were born in NYC or lived here for much of their lives.
All of us modern women can be grateful for, and inspired by, their contributions.
Here they are alphabetically, by borough, since that’s the only fair way to recognize these great women recognized by the NYC Parks Dept:
Editor’s Note –
This article was published originally on my other website,
NYC on the Cheap,
which was hacked, held for ransom and destroyed in Feb. 2022.
Some links here are to the web archive page.
NYC Parks Named for Women: Bronx
The earliest woman figure honored with a park or playground is Egyptian ruler Cleopatra (69 BC-30 BC).
The Bronx playground named for her is based on the site’s proximity to Anthony Avenue, which was named more than a century ago for a prominent local Bronx family, and not for Cleopatra’s lover Mark Antony, or even for Latin entertainer Mark Anthony, a former husband of Jennifer Lopez, also known as “Jenny from the Bronx”.
The Anthony Avenue street name sparked the imagination of then Parks Commissioner Henry J. Stern, who renamed the playground for Cleopatra in 1997.
Jennie Jerome Playground
Jennie Jerome Playground in the Bronx is named for Jeanette Jerome (1854-1921), who was born in Brooklyn and lived in NYC until she married Lord Randolph Churchill and became Lady Churchill.
Jerome bore two sons, one of whom was Winston Churchill, who would become Prime Minister of England and bravely guide that country through World War II with his ally, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Read further for the NYC parks in Manhattan named for FDR’s mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, and for his wife, Eleanor Roosevelt, in Brooklyn.
Jerome Avenue in the Bronx is named for Jennie Jerome’s father, a prominent local businessman.
NYC Parks Named for Women: Brooklyn
Shirley Chisholm Circle at Brower Park
In 2016, a paved, circular terrace in Brower Park was named after Shirley Anita St. Hill Chisholm (1924–2005). She was a tireless champion of equal rights and access to high quality education.
Shirley Chisholm was an educator, social rights advocate and celebrated politician known as the first African-American woman elected to the U.S. Congress and first major party African-American candidate to run for President of the United States.
She represented New York’s 12th Congressional District for seven terms from 1969-1983.
Eleanor Roosevelt Park
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962) was born in New York City in 1884.
The niece of President Theodore Roosevelt and the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ms. Roosevelt distinguished herself in her own right during and after his presidency.
As a worldwide spokesperson, lecturer, and news columnist, she championed the causes of peace, of social reform and racial equality.
Eleanor Roosevelt is honored with a playground in Bedford-Stuyvesant and also a monument in Manhattan’s Riverside Park.
Her uncle, Teddy Roosevelt was the first US President born in New York City. His birthplace, at 28 East 20th St. is a National Historic Site.
Marsha P. Johnson State Park
East River State Park, a seven-acre waterfront green space in Williamsburg, has been formally renamed by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in tribute to Marsha P. Johnson, a trailblazing LGBTQ activist, drag performer, sex worker, model, and ubiquitous downtown Manhattan presence fondly remembered as “The Mayor of Christopher Street.”
Johnson, who was born in New Jersey and passed away in 1992 at the age of 46. She was a tireless crusader in the gay liberation movement, and is known for her role in the Stonewall Uprising of 1969 and as a founding member of the Gay Liberation Front, ACT UP activist and co-founder of the Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries (S.T.A.R.) along with Sylvia Rivera.
She self-identified as a gay man and a drag artist during her lifetime.
The renaming marks the first time that a park administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation (NYS OPRHP) has been dedicated to an LGBTQ individual or transgender woman of color.
The dedication was made official ob what would have been Johnson’s 75th birthday, and also the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote.
The NYS OPRHP operates more than 250 parks, historic sites, and recreational trails across the state, including and eight in New York City, units within city limits including Shirley Chisholm State Park, also in Brooklyn (see above), and Roberto Clemente State Park in the Bronx.
Lady Moody Triangle
In Gravesend, Brooklyn, Lady Moody Triangle honors Lady Deborah Moody (ca.1583-1659), a wealthy, Protestant widow who left England for America in 1639, and in 1645 and settled in Brooklyn.
Modern women can be proud of her contributions:
Lady Deborah Moody founded the town of Gravesend, naming it after her hometown in the Old World, became the first woman in the New World to receive a land patent, to write the first town charter in English in New Netherland, and to establish one of the first towns with a square block plan in the New World.
NYC Parks Named for Women: Manhattan
Margaret Corbin Circle at Fort Tryon Park
Revolutionary War heroine Margaret Corbin (1751- ca. 1800), for whom Fort Tryon Park’s drive and the traffic circle at the park’s southern entrance are named, took control of her fallen husband John’s cannon and fought the British during the 1776 battle at the site of what is now Fort Tryon Park.
After American forces retreated into New Jersey following the Battle of Long Island and later the Battle of White Plains, about 3,000 soldiers remained on the hill in present-day Fort Tryon Park. The Continental Army fortified the battlement during the summer of 1776, taking advantage of the site’s steep terrain.
On November 16, 1776, 4,000 Hessian mercenaries fighting on behalf of the British attacked the outnumbered Maryland and Virginia riflemen who were defending the position. It was here that John and Margaret Corbin fought.
After cannoneer John Corbin was shot and killed, Margaret, who had helped to clean and load the cannon, took over for her husband, continuing to fire shots until she was hit by gunfire as well and subsequently captured.
Although not fatal, the wounds in her shoulder crippled her for life. She received one-half of a soldier’s pension, as decreed by the Continental Congress in 1779.
Corbin later moved near the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where she worked until her death, around 1800.
In 1926, Corbin’s body was disinterred and buried in the West Point Military Cemetery, the first woman to be buried at West Point.
Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center and Playground
Born to German immigrants in New York City on October 23, 1905, Gertrude Ederle was raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at 108 Amsterdam Avenue, above her father’s butcher shop.
A Gold Medal Olympian and World Record holder in swimming, Ederle is perhaps better known as the first woman to swim across the English Channel, departing from Cap Gris Nez in France on August 6, 1926, and landing on the shores of Kingsdown in Kent, England 14 hours and 39 minutes later.
Ederle also was the first female to have a ticker tape parade in her honor in New York City, and her achievement was applauded nationwide. President Calvin Coolidge (served 1923-1929) praised her as “America’s Best Girl.”
Ederle taught swimming at the Lexington School for the Deaf in New York City after losing a portion of her hearing several years after the Channel Swim.
She performed in the 1939 World’s Fair, and lived in Flushing, Queens for more than 50 years.
Gertrude Ederle died in Wyckoff, New Jersey in 2003 at the age of 98. The Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center – with an Olympic-size swimming pool – and the nearby Gertrude Ederle Playground are named for the famed Olympian.
Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly Playground
Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly (1862-1934) studied at the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, and became one of the first women doctors in the United States.
Later, Dr. Kelly ran a surgical clinic for the poor. She was a supporter of social causes, including the Irish Republican movement and women’s suffrage.
The Manhattan playground was one of five “model playgrounds” opened by Robert Moses in 1934, and was named for Kelly two years later by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, on May 16, 1936.
Learn more here about Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly Playground
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park
Another First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1928-1994), is honored in Central Park.
The Central Park Reservoir was renamed the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in 1994.
She lived across the street in the penthouse apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue, and could see the reservoir named for her from her windows.
BTW – In Central Park, there are 22 statues and other monuments to men but only one to a female – Alice in Wonderland – and she’s not even a real person, although an important and beloved character of fiction.
That’s finally being changed with the unveiling of a statue of three leaders of the Women’s Suffrage movement.
The 14-foot-tall bronze monument paying homage to Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton — all of whom were at the forefront of the national suffrage movement. The sculptor also is a woman, Meredith Bergmann
Learn more here about Central Park
Margaret Mead Green at Theodore Roosevelt Park
Margaret Mead (1901-1978) was an American anthropologist famous for her studies of social structures among the people of Samoa and New Guinea.
Mead worked as a research fellow and curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History from 1926 until her death in 1978.
The American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Pacific Peoples owes many of its exhibits to Mead’s research in the South Pacific, and there’s an annual Margaret Mead Film Festival each October featuring documentaries and shorts about the world’s cultures.
The western section of Theodore Roosevelt Park, home of the Museum of Natural History, was named for Mead in 1979.
Sara D. Roosevelt Park
Eleanor Roosevelt’s mother-in-law Sara Delano Roosevelt (1854-1941) was a much beloved figure when Manhattan’s Sara D. Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side was named for her in 1934.
She was known as the “First Mother”, at a time when very few presidents’ mothers were alive while they served in the Oval Office.
The park’s dedication ceremony was broadcast over radio from Maine to Virginia, and attended in person by 100,000 people.
Lillian Wald (1867-1940) was a leader in the social reform and recreation movement and a pioneer in the field of public health.
With Mary Brewster, she opened an out-patient nursing service on the Lower East Side, which expanded into the Henry Street Settlement House in 1893. In 1898, with eventual Parks Commissioner Charles Stover, she founded the Outdoor Recreation League, which sponsored some of New York City’s first playgrounds.
In 1902, Wald helped launch the world’s first public nursing program and in 1912, promoted the American Red Cross’s rural nursing service.
Two playgrounds on Manhattan’s Lower East Side are named for her.
NYC Parks Named for Women: Queens
Marie Curie Park
French-Polish physicist Marie Curie (1867-1934) discovered radium, polonium, and the nature of radioactivity with her husband Pierre. The Curies received many joint awards for their discoveries, among them the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics.
In 1911, Marie became the first person to receive a second Nobel Prize, this time for chemistry.
Curie is honored in Queens’ Marie Curie Park.
NYC Parks Named for Women: Staten Island
Alice Austen Park
Staten Island’s Alice Austen (1866-1952) was a photographer whose more than 9,000 photographs of the late 19th and early 20th century document life in New York City and elsewhere.
She was born in northeastern Staten Island in 1866 and later moved in with her grandparents who owned the Victorian cottage which takes her name — the house is one of many historic homes in the New York City park system.
Austen lived in the house, later with her companion Gertrude Tate, until the Depression wiped out her life savings, and she was forced to sell the family home and move into a poorhouse.
Only toward the end of her life was her photographic work rediscovered, and she received considerable media attention not long before her death in 1952.
A large collection of her photographs is now owned by the Staten Island Historical Society.
What to See and Do in Staten Island
Morris-Jumel Mansion Museum
Eliza Jumel (1775-1865 ), one of the wealthiest women of 19th century America lived in Manhattan’s oldest house, a mansion at Roger Morris Park in Manhattan.
Although she as a well-known socialite and businesswoman, she is most famous for her marriage to former Vice President Aaron Burr (1756-1836 ), who murdered Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel.
Her ghost is said to haunt the place.
Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote part of the blockbuster Broadway show Hamilton in Burr’s bedroom.
This article was adapted from information on the NYC Parks Dept. website
plus additional research by ecoxplorer publisher/editor Evelyn Kanter
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter is a journalist with 20+ years of experience as a newspaper and magazine writer, radio & TV news producer & reporter, and author of guidebooks and smartphone apps – all focusing on travel, automotive, the environment and your rights as a consumer.
ecoXplorer Evelyn Kanter currently serves as President of the International Motor Press Assn. (IMPA) and is a former Board Member of the Society of American Travel Writers (SATW)
Contact me at email@example.com.
Copyright (C) Evelyn Kanter
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