By Megan McGibney
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer kicked off Women’s History month with an open house at her lower Manhattan office at 1 Centre Street on Sunday afternoon.
With this year being the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, the open house included several presentations to discuss upcoming events and projects related to this landmark legislation’s centennial year.
The biggest event the Borough President will do to honor this anniversary will be the unveiling of the Central Park statue honoring women’s rights activists Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in Central Park on Aug. 26.
“Everyone here who works for social change knows,” said Pam Elam, the President of Monumental Women, the organization behind the monument. “That so much of our history has been hidden from us.”
Elam went on to explain how historical illiteracy is a big problem, since so many know little about history, especially women’s history in general. Many in attendance nodded and murmured their agreements as she said this.
Elam also said that her organization will continue to spread awareness of women’s history, even beyond the Central Park statue. She hopes to get other cities to create monuments or dedicate spaces in memory of accomplished women.
“Whether it be a trail, a plaque, a street,” she said. “Who knows who’ll be inspired by that woman? Who knows who would feel a sense of energy from that?”
Other presentations included a short film on Lillian Ward, who founded the Henry Street Settlement; an accompanying booklet to the walking tour, Pioneers of Women’s Rights in Manhattan, which lays out the various sites in Lower Manhattan where women activists did their fight for equality; and a few archival events happening during this month.
Towards the end of the presentations, Pauline Toole, Commissioner of the Department of Records and Information Services, gave the audience a list of various events and projects they, and anyone they know, can take part in to celebrate the women of New York.
For one, she wants to see the lights of businesses, residential homes and even Empire State Building, to be lit in purple on August 26th. While the colors of the women’s suffrage were white, yellow and purple, Toole explained that purple is a more obvious choice.
“The lights in New York are already in white and yellow,” she said. “Purple is more of a statement, and you can actually see the purple.” Toole said the idea behind this comes from the World Pride lights from last year.
In addition, Toole has a project called 20,000 by 2020. It is where anyone can enter a story of an inspiring woman, so there will be 20,000 great women to be remembered.
“Enter your mother’s story,” she told the attendees. “Enter your story!”
Many of the women who attended were delighted to see all these events and projects being lined up for this year. An eager energy was clearly in the air.
“It is good that they’re finally highlighting women’s contributions to society over the years,” said Manhattanite Susan Carrington. “So many women have been overlooked.”
The following events here discussed at the open house: