NYC Parks Named for Women: Manhattan
Margaret Corbin Circle at Fort Tryon Park
Revolutionary War heroine Margaret Corbin (1751- ca. 1800), for whom Fort Tryon Park’s drive and the traffic circle at the park’s southern entrance are named, took control of her fallen husband John’s cannon and fought the British during the 1776 battle at the site of what is now Fort Tryon Park.
After American forces retreated into New Jersey following the Battle of Long Island and later the Battle of White Plains, about 3,000 soldiers remained on the hill in present-day Fort Tryon Park. The Continental Army fortified the battlement during the summer of 1776, taking advantage of the site’s steep terrain.
On November 16, 1776, 4,000 Hessian mercenaries fighting on behalf of the British attacked the outnumbered Maryland and Virginia riflemen who were defending the position. It was here that John and Margaret Corbin fought.
After cannoneer John Corbin was shot and killed, Margaret, who had helped to clean and load the cannon, took over for her husband, continuing to fire shots until she was hit by gunfire as well and subsequently captured.
Although not fatal, the wounds in her shoulder crippled her for life. She received one-half of a soldier’s pension, as decreed by the Continental Congress in 1779.
Corbin later moved near the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where she worked until her death, around 1800.
In 1926, Corbin’s body was disinterred and buried in the West Point Military Cemetery, the first woman to be buried at West Point.
Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center and Playground
Born to German immigrants in New York City on October 23, 1905, Gertrude Ederle was raised on the Upper West Side of Manhattan at 108 Amsterdam Avenue, above her father’s butcher shop.
A Gold Medal Olympian and World Record holder in swimming, Ederle is known to be the first woman to swim across the English Channel, departing from Cap Gris Nez in France on August 6, 1926, and landing on the shores of Kingsdown in Kent, England 14 hours and 39 minutes later.
She was the first female to have a ticker tape parade in her honor in New York City, and her achievement was applauded nationwide. President Calvin Coolidge (served 1923-1929) praised her as “America’s Best Girl.”
Ederle taught swimming at the Lexington School for the Deaf in New York City after losing a portion of her hearing several years after the Channel Swim.
She performed in the 1939 World’s Fair, and lived in Flushing, Queens for more than 50 years.
Gertrude Ederle died in Wyckoff, New Jersey in 2003 at the age of 98. The Gertrude Ederle Recreation Center and nearby Gertrude Ederle Playground are named for the famed Olympian.
Dr. Gertrude B. Kelly (1862-1934) studied at the Women’s Medical College of the New York Infirmary for Women and Children, and became one of the first women doctors in the United States.
Later, Dr. Kelly ran a surgical clinic for the poor. She was a supporter of social causes, including the Irish Republican movement and women’s suffrage.
The Manhattan playground was one of five “model playgrounds” opened by Robert Moses in 1934, and was named for Kelly two years later by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, on May 16, 1936.
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in Central Park
Another First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis (1928-1994), is honored in Central Park.
The Central Park Reservoir was renamed the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir in 1994.
She lived across the street in the penthouse apartment at 1040 Fifth Avenue, and could see the reservoir named for her from her windows.
BTW – In Central Park, there are 22 statues and other monuments to men but only one to a female – Alice in Wonderland – and she’s not even a real person, although an important and beloved character of fiction.
That’s finally being changed with the unveiling of a statue of three leaders of the Women’s Suffrage movement.
The 14-foot-tall bronze monument paying homage to Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton — all of whom were at the forefront of the national suffrage movement. The sculptor also is a woman, Meredith Bergmann
Margaret Mead (1901-1978) was an American anthropologist famous for her studies of social structures among the people of Samoa and New Guinea.
Mead worked as a research fellow and curator of ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History from 1926 until her death in 1978.
The American Museum of Natural History’s Hall of Pacific Peoples owes many of its exhibits to Mead’s research in the South Pacific, and there’s an annual Margaret Mead Film Festival each October featuring documentaries and shorts about the world’s cultures.
The western section of Theodore Roosevelt Park, home of the Museum of Natural History, was named for Mead in 1979.
Sara D. Roosevelt Park
Eleanor Roosevelt’s mother-in-law Sara Delano Roosevelt (1854-1941) was a much beloved figure when Manhattan’s Sara D. Roosevelt Park on the Lower East Side was named for her in 1934.
She was known as the “First Mother”, at a time when very few presidents’ mothers were alive while they served in the Oval Office.
The park’s dedication ceremony was broadcast over radio from Maine to Virginia, and attended in person by 100,000 people.
Lillian Wald (1867-1940) was a leader in the social reform and recreation movement and a pioneer in the field of public health.
With Mary Brewster, she opened an out-patient nursing service on the Lower East Side, which expanded into the Henry Street Settlement House in 1893. In 1898, with eventual Parks Commissioner Charles Stover, she founded the Outdoor Recreation League, which sponsored some of New York City’s first playgrounds.
In 1902, she helped launch the world’s first public nursing program and in 1912, promoted the American Red Cross’s rural nursing service.
Two playgrounds on Manhattan’s Lower East Side are named for her.
NYC Parks Named for Women: Queens
Marie Curie Park
French-Polish physicist Marie Curie (1867-1934) discovered radium, polonium, and the nature of radioactivity with her husband Pierre. The Curies received many joint awards for their discoveries, among them the 1903 Nobel Prize for Physics.
In 1911, Marie became the first person to receive a second Nobel Prize, this time for chemistry.
Curie is honored in Queens’ Marie Curie Park.
NYC Parks Named for Women: Staten Island
Alice Austen Park
Staten Island’s Alice Austen (1866-1952) was a photographer whose more than 9,000 photographs of the late 19th and early 20th century document life in New York City and elsewhere.
She was born in northeastern Staten Island in 1866 and later moved in with her grandparents who owned the Victorian cottage which takes her name — the house is one of many historic homes in the New York City park system.
Austen lived in the house, later with her companion Gertrude Tate, until the Depression wiped out her life savings, and she was forced to sell the family home and move into a poorhouse.
Only toward the end of her life was her photographic work rediscovered, and she received considerable media attention not long before her death in 1952. A large collection of her photographs is now owned by the Staten Island Historical Society.
Eliza Jumel (1775-1865 ), one of the wealthiest women of 19th century America lived in Manhattan’s oldest house, a mansion at Roger Morris Park in Manhattan.
Although she as a well-known socialite and businesswoman, she is most famous for her marriage to former Vice President Aaron Burr (1756-1836 ), who murdered Alexander Hamilton in that famous duel.
Her ghost is said to haunt the place.
Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote part of the blockbuster Broadway show Hamilton in Burr’s bedroom.
It was published originally in 2018 and is updated and re-published periodically.
Evelyn Kanter is a native New Yorker grew up in Inwood, close to the Margaret Corbin Circle in Fort Tryon Park, who has written for the NY Times, NY Daily News, NY Post, New York Magazine, and is a former on-air reporter for WCBS Newsradio 88 and WABC-TV Eyewitness News.
Evelyn Kanter also is the author of several NYC and Hudson Valley guidebooks, including my latest, 100 Things to Do in NYC Before You Die.
Purchase autographed copies by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org