“Mourners from the Ladies Waist and Dressmakers Union Local 25 and the United Hebrew Trades of New York march in the streets after the Triangle fire” 1911. Reproduction. The National Archives, via Wikimedia Commons
Around 4:30 p.m. on March 25, 1911, a fire broke out on the eighth floor of the Asch Building at Washington Place and Greene Streets, just as the young employees of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, who occupied the building’s top three floors, were preparing to leave for the day. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire killed 146 people, nearly all of them Jewish and Italian immigrant women and girls who toiled in the city’s garment industry. Triangle stood out as the deadliest workplace tragedy in New York City before 9/11. It served as a bellwether in the American labor movement, galvanizing Americans in all walks of life to join the fight for industrial reform. It also highlighted the extraordinary grit and bravery of the women workers and reformers – members of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, and the Women’s Trade Union League – who fought and died for fairer and safer working conditions in New York and around the country.
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Photo of Augusta Braxton Baker courtesy of NYPL Digital Collections
Every March the nation celebrates the contributions and achievements of women in the United States. With the origins of Women’s History Month, along with the suffrage movement itself, rooted in New York, the city is one of the best places to pay tribute to and learn more about the many trailblazing women who shaped the world as we know it. Although the pandemic has changed how we commemorate Women’s History Month, many local organizations and groups are hosting virtual lectures, tours, and art exhibits, from a two-day online festival hosted by the Apollo Theater to a feminist tour of Harlem. Plus, the city’s official tourism organization, NYC & Company, has put together an itinerary full of women-owned businesses and cultural sites related to women’s history across the five boroughs to visit, found here.
(1917) Picketing in all sorts of weather. N.Y. Day Picket. United States Washington D.C. New York, 1917, [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress.
International Women’s Day, and what later became Women’s History Month, originated in New York City over 100 years ago. On February 28, 1909, “Women’s Day,” was celebrated as the one-year anniversary of the city’s garment industry strike led by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union. The Socialist Party of America chose the day to honor the women who bravely protested miserable labor conditions. American socialist and feminist Charlotte Perkins Gilman addressed a New York crowd, saying: “It is true that a woman’s duty is centered in her home and motherhood but home should mean the whole country and not be confined to three or four rooms of a city or a state.” At the time, women still couldn’t vote.
Screenshot of Women’s History Tour map; Courtesy of Village Preservation
On the first day of Women’s History Month, a preservation group is renewing calls to landmark nearly two dozen sites related to women’s history in New York City. Village Preservation on Monday kicked off a campaign effort urging the city’s Landmarks Preservation Commission to designate several buildings located south of Union Square that have a connection to trailblazing women, organizations, or historic events. It’s part of the group’s broader effort to protect nearly 200 buildings in the area which is slated for new development.
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Pre-election parade for suffrage in NYC, in which 20,000 women marched. 1915. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress
This August marked the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave some women the right to vote. In New York, a hotbed of suffragist activity in the mid 19th- and early 20th-century, women won the vote a few years earlier in 1917. While New York women were on the frontlines of the suffrage movement early on, one event served as a major turning point in winning the vote. On October 23, 1915, tens of thousands of New Yorkers dressed in all white took to Fifth Avenue, marching roughly three miles from Washington Square to 59th Street. It was the largest suffrage parade to date, with city officials at the time estimating between 25,000 and 60,000 participants.
What better place to celebrate women than in New York? The state hosted the country’s first women’s rights convention in 1848, Union Square held the first large-scale suffrage parade in 1908, and New Yorkers came up with the idea to honor women for one month every year. This Women’s History Month, which marks the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage, honor the trailblazing New Yorkers who forged the paths for feminists today with lectures, art exhibits, and bites from women-owned vendors. Ahead, find our favorite events, from a Wikipedia edit-a-thon at the Museum of Modern Art to a trolley tour of Woodlawn Cemetery.
“Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, half-length portrait, standing with statue of soldiers,” 1920, via, The Library of Congress
When the first Armory Show came to New York City in 1913, it marked the dawn of Modernism in America, displaying work by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Cezanne, Picasso, Matisse, and Duchamp for the very first time. Not only did female art patrons provide 80 percent of the funding for the show, but since that time, women have continued to be the central champions of American modern and contemporary art. It was Abby Aldrich Rockefeller who founded MoMA; Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney the Whitney; Hilla von Rebay the Guggenheim; Aileen Osborn Webb the Museum of Art and Design; and Marcia Tucker the New Museum. Read on to meet the modern women who founded virtually all of New York City’s most prestigious modern and contemporary art museums.
More Modern Women
Women from all over the world unite at the Apollo Theater, photo by Shahar Azran, courtesy of the Apollo Theater
Women’s History Month comes but once a year in March, so until Women’s Day every day, we’ll have to make the most of what the city of New York has to offer. And that’s quite a lot considering all the art, culture, and history of the Big Apple. Here’s a list of what you can do to commemorate women’s indelible contributions to human flourishing, while also reflecting on how you can contribute to achieving equality, from art exhibits to comedy shows to seminars on female entrepreneurship.
Check out our 11 event picks
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the designation of the Greenwich Village Historic District on April 29, 1969. One of the city’s oldest and still largest historic districts, it’s a unique treasure trove of rich history, pioneering culture, and charming architecture. GVSHP will be spending 2019 marking this anniversary with events, lectures, and new interactive online resources, including a celebration and district-wide weekend-long “Open House” starting on Saturday, April 13th in Washington Square. This is part of a series of posts about the unique qualities of the Greenwich Village Historic District marking its golden anniversary.
Few places on earth have attracted as many creative, mold-shattering, transformative women as Greenwich Village, especially the Greenwich Village Historic District which lies in its heart. From its earliest settlers in the 17th century through its bohemian heyday in the late 19th and 20th centuries right up to today, pioneering women have made the Greenwich Village Historic District their home, from congresswoman Bella Abzug and gay rights advocate Edie Windsor to playwright Lorraine Hansberry and photographer Berenice Abbott.
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Rendering via MVVA and the Hudson Yards Development Corporation
Update 3/25/19: Tishman Speyer bought last week an auto repair building on West 36th Street for $20 million, the New York Post reported Monday. The company will demolish the two-story building to make way for a greenway that will be the next segment of Bella Abzug Park. In exchange for paying for the new park, Tishman Speyer will get air rights from the city to put up a tower bounded by Tenth and Eleventh Avenues.
The city on Friday renamed a park near Hudson Yards in honor of the late Bella Abzug, a former U.S. Representative of New York and stalwart supporter of the women’s rights movement. The greenspace, formerly Hudson Yards Park, stretches just over two acres between West 33rd and 36th Street. First developed with the extension of the 7 subway line to 34th Street, the park will soon be extended to 39th Street and run over an Amtrak rail cut.