There are precious few public statues in the five boroughs that honor notable New York women, but a new addition is on the horizon: The de Blasio administration announced today that, as part of its SheBuiltNYC program, a monument of trailblazing Brooklyn legislator Shirley Chisholm will be installed in Prospect Park. (The announcement is fitting, too, considering today would have been Chisholm’s 94th birthday; she died in 2005.)
This will be the first monument to be constructed as part of SheBuiltNYC. The city launched an open call for nominations over the summer, ultimately getting more than 2,000 suggestions for new statues—and according to the de Blasio administration, honoring a woman who was “committed to social reform or justice” was paramount for those who submitted nominations.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a better example of that than Chisholm, who was the first black Congresswoman, elected in 1969 to represent the city’s 12th district. Her legacy, according to the National Women’s History Museum:
There, “Fighting Shirley” introduced more than 50 pieces of legislation and championed racial and gender equality, the plight of the poor, and ending the Vietnam War. She was a co-founder of the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, and in 1977 became the first black woman and second woman ever to serve on the powerful House Rules Committee.
She was also the first woman to run for president on the Democratic ticket, launching her ultimately unsuccessful campaign in 1972. (But as the NWHM notes, her campaign was hurt by discrimination: “She was blocked from participating in televised primary debates, and after taking legal action, was permitted to make just one speech.”)
“There is no one more deserving than Rep. Chisholm of a statue honoring her life and legacy; may New Yorkers of all backgrounds be inspired by her story,” deputy mayor Alicia Glen said in a statement.
The piece will be installed near the park entrance at Parkside Avenue in 2020; the city will also announce an artist to design the monument sometime next year.
This is the second public initiative honoring Chisholm’s life and work to be announced this year. In September, Gov. Andrew Cuomo revealed that a new 407-acre park in Jamaica Bay, built as part of the state’s Vital Brooklyn initiative, would also be named for the pioneering legislator.