Subway Map Reimagines NYC Stations After Famous Women

Every stop is named for a notable woman who lived nearby.

Mar 8, 2020

(littlenySTOCK / Shutterstock.com)

New York City, like most American cities, likes to name streets and landmarks after famous people. Lincoln Center, Washington Street, Madison Avenue, and Jefferson Street are named for American presidents. Columbus Circle because he sailed the ocean blue. There are a myriad of former mayors and other male historical figures.

You could spend a day in New York and only come across public spaces named for men. There are few places named after notable women in the city. According to the government run initiative She Built NYC, only one percent of sites are named after females. That's why the re-imagined New York city Subway map – the one that shows you all the stations in the five boroughs – names all the stations after famous women. A new updated version was recently released.

The "City of Women" map was created by Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro in 2016 according to Gothamist. It looks just like the MTA's official map that is found in subway stations, online, and found on tourist souvenirs like t-shirts and mugs. The map was published as part of the artist's cartography book Nonstop Metropolis: A New York City Atlas

When the book was published, Solnit said she was inspired by questions about how the omission of women's names from public spaces impacts imaginations and how these silences affect women.

"Names offer really powerful signals about what we value as a society, about the histories that we avow, about the histories that we want to push under the rug,” Jelly Schapiro told Gothamist. “And I think it's an incredibly powerful and overdue conversation we're having now about who are the people that we celebrate in public space and how does that shape how we experience those places."

The new version speaks to the same concerns, but it has now been updated to reflect the growth of the NYC subway system and added 80 new names of important women to represent all 424 underground stations.

The creators said that the map," pays homage to some of the great and significant women of New York City in the places where they lived, worked, competed, went to school, danced, painted, wrote, rebelled, organized, philosophized, taught, and made names for themselves.”

The map includes such varied icons as Margaret Sanger, Shirley Chisolm, Barbara Streisand, Susan Sontag and the new version added Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Cardi B among others.

Jelly-Schapiro said that he and Solnit wanted to revisit the map and add more names because so many important things happened since 2016.

“You know, when we were working on this [the first version] it was the end of the Obama presidency,” Jelly-Schapiro said. “I think that these conversations were not nearly as prominent as they have become over the last few years, conversations around gender, around the history of slavery, the history of how and when monuments were erected.”

Some of the women that were added to the new version said they were pleased and surprised to be on the map.

Writer Jia Tolentino who's on the Franklin avenue C stop in the Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn said she's had the 2016 version framed and hanging on her wall.  “I just thought this map is so beautiful,” said Tolentino. She described it as an, “alternate version of a city, a world we all have always lived in that hasn’t been recognized until much more recently.”

Putting women's names on the map shows that females play an important role in history, politics, culture, sports, and can be just about anything. And that's an important message to share with your daughters during Women's History Month.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.