Women make up 50% of Los Angeles. But only 8% of the city’s monuments, landmarks and buildings are named after women. On March 28, L.A. women had the chance to help correct that imbalance.
In collaboration with the L.A. Mayor’s Office, Mount Saint Mary’s Center for the Advancement of Women hosted residents from across L.A. to take part in a historic research event at the close of Women’s History Month. Those who attended (including MSMU students and faculty) were given access to city databases and historical records, and empowered to research Angelenas whose accomplishments and contributions have been lost or overlooked — but might be worthy of recognition in the City’s public spaces.
“This was such an exciting opportunity for people to come together and be part of history, of literally helping put women on the map here in Los Angeles,” said Emerald Archer, PhD, director of the University’s Center for the Advancement of Women. “Our ultimate aim is to increase the number of public spaces and places named after women, and to help supply the City with create L.A.’s first-ever women's historic context statement.”
That historic context statement will provide a narrative and timeline of the major milestones involved in the history of women’s rights in L.A., dating back to the City’s incorporation in 1850. Leaders from the City — including Nina Hachigian, deputy mayor for international affairs, and Tanya Pineda, gender equity policy analyst — shared why it’s vital for Los Angeles to showcase the accomplishments and influence of half its citizenry.
“This is important because for young girls it makes a difference when they see a city councilmember, a firefighter or a city statue who looks like them,” Hachigian said. “Especially if that woman grew up in their neighborhood or speaks their language.”
The project will not only provide more role models for girls across the City — it will also reclaim and illuminate forgotten stories and voices of some of L.A.’s most influential women from the past. Not only will more public spaces, streets and buildings be named after some of these women, but the City also aims to build a brand-new statue in a woman’s honor by 2020 — in honor of the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the right to vote.
The “Putting Angelenas on the Map” event at the Mount marked a continuation of a partnership between the University and the City that began back in 2014-2015, when the Office of Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City of Los Angeles Commission on the Status of Women commissioned the University to conduct the first-ever gender equity study on the status of women and girls in Los Angeles.
The revelations of that research led Mayor Garcetti to issue an executive directive on gender equity, which outlined concrete steps City government should take to improve equity and equality for L.A.’s women’s and girls. This “Putting Angelenas on the Map” project is an outgrowth of the City’s comprehensive gender equity efforts.
To learn more about this City-wide project, particularly the Women’s’ Rights Historic Context Statement, visit the Los Angeles Historic Resources Survey. To learn more about the Center for the Advancement of Women at Mount Saint Mary's University, visit www.msmu.edu/CAW.