Central Park’s Women’s Heritage Trail

Since women’s heritage should be celebrated not only on Women’s History Month, we invite all to explore beautiful places and learn about the women’s legacy in Central Park.

These places are dedicated to women who contributed to New York City; some are famous nationwide, others are known mainly to locals.

Monuments, playgrounds, fountains, and more, all the sites mentioned in this trail are related to and inspired by women who were New Yorkers, at least for parts of their lives, and worked to shape the city they loved.

This plaza is a spot for rotating sculptural art exhibitions organized by the Public Art Fund. The plaza bears the name of Doris C. Freedman (1928-1981), who founded 1977 the Public Art Fund to bring the public free powerful experiences with art. Freedman was a New Yorker since birth who dedicated her life to increasing public art in the city.

One of the most famous and beautiful ice rinks in the city is located on the southeast side of the park since 1950. The philanthropist Kate Wollman (1870-1955) funded the rink construction as a memorial to her family members. During the summertime, the ice rink transforms into an amusement park.

Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument
The Mall, New York, NY 10019.

The first statue of real women in Central Park is only here since August 2020. The monument depicts 3 of the US suffrage movement leaders who fought for women’s constitutional rights to vote- Sojourner Truth (1797-1883), Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815-1902). It was created by the artist Meredith Bergmann, who chose to present the women in a collaborative meeting. Pay attention to the women’s dresses, historic accessories, and artifacts planted in the monument, such as The Declaration of Sentiments, old newspapers, and more.

More about the statue and its journey in this article.

Named after Mary Harriman Rumsey (1881-1934), a wealthy philanthropist and a social activist in the Settlement Movement in New York City. Rumsey co-founded the Junior League of the City of New York. The local charter inspired more communities to form Junior Leagues; all joined later under the Association of Junior Leagues International Inc. At the end of the 20th century, the organization had more than 160000 members. Rumsey was also involved in FDR New Deal reforms, which her brother continued after she passed away.

Angel of the Waters Statue, at Bethesda Fountain by Emma Stebbins
Bethesda Terrace, 72 Terrace Dr, New York, NY 10021.

Emma Stebbins (1818-1882) was a talented neoclassical lesbian sculptress in the 19th century. Stebbins became the first woman to receive a public art commission from NYC when she created the Angel of the Waters Statue, which sits atop the Bethesda Fountain (dedicated on May 31, 1873). Stebbins created the angle in the image of a woman with a lily in her hand that represents purity, and the four cherubs below represent Peace, Health, Purity, and Temperance. A theme that was relevant then, when clean water was supplied to the city and stored in the Central Park reservoir.

Located at the James Michael Levin Playground, the fountain honors the journalist and social worker Sophie Irene Loeb (1876-1929). Loeb’s journalism work focused on social subjects, such as welfare for widowers, community centers, and playgrounds for children. She founded and served as president of the Child Welfare Board of NYC and the Child Welfare Committee of America.
More about it here: Loeb Memorial Fountain. Browse this link to find books she wrote.

This playground is located on the Upper West Side across the street from the famous singer Diana Ross residence. Ross planned to fund the playground’s construction from television rights and merchandise from two free concerts she gave at Central Park in the summer of 1983. Thunderstorm at the first show destroyed all the merchandise, leaving no profits to use, so eventually, she used personal funds. The playground was dedicated in 1986 and has wood equipment, swings, and a small splash area.

Check out her music CDs in here.

Gloria Steinem Bench behind the Metropolitan Museum
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1000 5th Ave, New York, NY 10028.

Gloria Steinem’s bench near the Met was dedicated to her for her 80th birthday.
The sign on the bench reads:
“In celebration of the 80th birthday of Women’s Movement organizer, the great Gloria Steinem and in honor of her hero, Sojourner Truth (1797-1883) who understood that equality includes everyone or no one.”

The Central Park Reservoir was renamed in 1994 to honor the former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1929-1994) and her contribution to the city. Her apartment overlooked this area of the park, and she used to jog its 1.58-mile circle jogging track. The reservoir doesn’t provide water to the city since 1993 but is still a big attraction in Central Park, especially in the cherry tree blooming season.
Click to read more about the HerStory of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and books about her.

The ice rink/swimming pool is named after the philanthropist and social worker Loula Davis Lasker (1887-1961), who donated $600,000 for its construction. The facility opened on December 22, 1966, and for many years was the only convertible ice rink/pool facility in the US. It is closed for reconstruction till 2024.

Burnett Fountain in the Conservatory Garden
E 105th St &, 5th Ave, New York, NY 10029.

The statue and Fountain are honoring Frances Hodgson Burnett (1849-1924), a novelist and a playwright. The bronze sculptor was created by the sculptress Bessie Potter Vonnoh and dedicated on May 28, 12 years after her death. It depicts Mary and Dickon from The Secret Garden, one of her famous novels.
Click here to see some of the Books she wrote.

The Dairy Visitor Center
E 65th St, New York, NY 10065.

Elizabeth Barlow Rogers (B. 1936) revitalized, restored, and improved Central Park during the 1980s, transforming it from a trash and neglected area to what it is like today. She founded the Central Park Conservancy, which manages and maintains the park, and served as its first president. Rogers is a landscape designer, landscape preservationist, writer, and a mother of two.

The Dairy was the first restored project of the Central Park Conservancy.
Follow this link to read books she wrote.

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