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Marking Women's History Month, City's Records Department Unveils Exhibit Honoring Women's Activism in New York City

March 10, 2015

Exhibit showcases women’s efforts in pushing for reforms on pay equity, reproductive health, violence against women, and equal opportunity throughout New York City history

Doors open at 4 PM tonight at 31 Chambers, with exhibition running until June

NEW YORK—Marking Women’s History Month, the New York City Municipal Archives—a division of the City’s Department of Records and Information Services (DoRIS)—today opened the exhibit Women Make History: A March Through the Archives. The exhibit features historical documents, photographs and objects that spotlight how women in and out of City government led successful efforts for change on pay equity, reproductive health, violence against women, and equal opportunity. Women Make History also marks the beginning of a five-year Women’s Suffrage Centennial celebration initiated by DoRIS to recognize past accomplishments and inspire activism today across New York City.

“Our exhibit highlights both women who were trailblazers in New York City government, and women who raised their voices to demand equal treatment, equal pay and personal safety.  The fascinating and unique materials shine a light on women’s struggles and successes over more than a century,” said DoRIS Commissioner Pauline A. Toole. “This exhibit is a tribute to our past accomplishments, and a reminder of all the work that remains to achieve full equality for women. I invite all New Yorkers to visit our exhibit and hope that it inspires them to action.”

“Having just participated in the March for Gender Equality, I was excited to see all the women and men energized and impassioned to combat gender-based violence and discrimination in the home and the workplace. How fitting to now be able to honor the work of women in the City’s history who have struggled for gender equality and paved the way for us!” said the City’s Commission on Human Rights Commissioner Carmelyn P. Malalis.

“The digital age is integral to the modern world, but it also helps us unlock our shared history like never before,” said Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications Commissioner Anne Roest. “Countless talented and courageous women have helped shape our New York City into the amazing place it is today, and this exhibit illustrates those many contributions, while inspiring us toward an even brighter future for all. The past is all around us in New York, you just have to know where to look—and the Women Make History exhibit is a great place to start.”

“Women represent half of our population. While I celebrate the progress of women throughout the world, we must elevate the importance of hearing the voice of women on every issue and achieving equity for women in every way. I believe this will make the world a better place for all,” said Paula Gavin, Chief Service Officer, NYC Service.

Notable “first” women are spotlighted throughout the exhibit—Emily Warren Roebling, who stepped in and orchestrated the building of the Brooklyn Bridge; Judge Constance Baker Motley, who became the first black woman appointed to the federal bench in 1966 (and the first to argue before the United States Supreme Court, winning 9 out of her 10 cases); and educator and civil rights leader Antonia Pantoja, who founded ASPIRA, a non-profit organization for Latino youth focused on promoting a positive self-image, commitment to community, and education.

The selections are drawn from among the 200,000 cubic feet of original records that the DoRIS preserves and manages for New Yorkers in the Municipal Archives. Some of the items on display include Lady Deborah Moody’s land ownership patent dating from 1645—one of the oldest documents in the Municipal Archives. A series of original documents from Mayor LaGuardia’s files also show the first-ever report on Sex Crimes, as well as letters documenting the controversial program the mayor instituted to curb sex offenders.

About the New York City Municipal Archives
Open to the public, the Municipal Archives preserves more than 200,000 cubic feet of original documents, photographs, ledgers, maps, architectural renderings, manuscripts, objects, and moving images. More than 900,000 historical photographs are accessible on-line via the agency website; 10.5 million birth, death and marriage certificates provide essential documentation for family history research; and its world-class mayoral, court and City departmental collections are unequaled by any other city in the nation.

About the New York City Department of Records and Information Services
Established in 1977, the DoRIS sets and enforces record management policies, preserves City government’s historically valuable records, and provides public access to both historical and contemporary records and information about New York City government. The three divisions of the agency—the Municipal Archives, the Municipal Library, and the Municipal Records Center—work together toward this mission. The agency also operates a Visitor Center where long-hidden treasures from the Archives and Municipal Library are featured in ever-changing exhibits that highlight 400 years of City history. 

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