City of Women: A Feminist Map of NYC

Imagine you are walking along down the streets of New York, and instead of seeing Rockefeller subway stop, it reads TONI MORRISON or JENNIFER LOPEZ. These are just a few of the names in the City of Women map that is featured in the book Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas by authors Rebbeca Solnit and Joshua Jelly- Schapiro (which was previously published in 2017). The City of Women map was updated with 80 more names that was recently released in October. ELYSIAN interviewed author Joshua-Jelly Schapiro on the map as well as the new updates.

Schapiro explained that the idea for the map came from the fact that the vast majority of places in NYC are named after men, living in a manscape as author Rebecca Solnit puts it. Nearly every subway stop was renamed after illustrious NYC women to counter this “manscape”. When asked about the City of Women 2.0 map and the process for choosing the names, Joshua said, “Some new additions were clear — people who’ve risen to prominence in the past couple of years (e.g., Alexandra Ocasio Cortez), who we had to include. Others were people that we somehow left off the first version, but who are women we admire and had to get on this time around — say, Jacqueline Woodson, a great writer who’s also a great BROOKLYN writer. Beyond that, we did a lot of consulting with friends and contacts around the city, about local heroes or community leaders who we might not know about, but who have that recognition–or SHOULD have that recognition–in their communities.”

These prominent women are not only important in their industries, but they are important to the history of the city as well. The project aims to show that maps can change perceptions of place and reveal truths and stories. Joshua said this when asked what he wants people to take away from the map, “It’s also based on the idea that a great paper map–an object of beauty that’s always an amazing way to organize information, and tell a story–has a unique power to surface hidden histories, to help us see place in new ways. The “City of Women” map aims to educate and to open eyes (“I didn’t know that so-and-so grew up in Flatbush!), and also to provoke questions: why ARE so few pieces of public infrastructure, and so few public monuments or public places of any kind, named for women? And how does this lack–this imbalance–impact our understanding both of history and of what’s possible now? How might we behave or think differently in a city whose public spaces did more to honor the rights and contributions of women and girls?”.

Although it seems like a massive project to take on, Joshua explained that it only took a couple of months for himself and coauthor Rebeeca Solnit of research to compile a list of names for the map. The City of Women 2.0 will be the latest updated version of the map and is on sale now for purchase.


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