overview

Many New York City public parks and playgrounds are named in honor of prominent figures in New York City and American history.

Eleanor Roosevelt Monument, in Manhattan’s Riverside Park, inadvertently honors an LGBT individual.

Header Photo
Courtesy of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.

History

Many New York City public parks and playgrounds are named in honor of prominent figures in New York City and American history. The NYC LGBT Historic Sites Project compiled a list of 13 public parks and playgrounds named after gay men, lesbians, and bisexuals, several of which intentionally honor an LGBT individual. This list includes Eleanor Roosevelt Monument, in Manhattan.

This monument in Riverside Park celebrates First Lady and humanitarian Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), and also inadvertently honors her LGBT history. This was the second statue of an American woman placed in a public park in New York City, in 1996, and is thought to be the first monument dedicated to an American First Lady. Roosevelt was the longest-serving First Lady, having presided in the White House between 1933 and 1945. She took an active role in politics and refused to accept the traditional role assigned to previous First Ladies. She had many lesbian friends, and initially established residency in Greenwich Village after her husband was elected president in 1933. This was the same year she began a long-term lesbian relationship with journalist Lorena Hickok. In 1945, President Truman appointed Roosevelt as the first United States Delegate to the United Nations, where she helped lead the effort to draft the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which passed in 1948.

This monument, placed at the southern entranceway to Riverside Park, is by sculptor Penelope Jencks. The bronze sculpture depicts Roosevelt leaning against a boulder, and is set within a circular landscape designed by Bruce Kelly/David Varnell Landscape Architects. It was funded by the City of New York, the State of New York, and the Eleanor Roosevelt Monument Fund. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was present at the dedication.

Sources

  1. “1908 Roosevelt Houses,” blog, Daytonian in Manhattan, April 6, 2011, bit.ly/2dXJHR2.

  2. Blanche Weisen Cook, Eleanor Roosevelt, 2 vols. (New York: Viking, 1992).

  3. “Eleanor Roosevelt Monument,” NYC Department of Parks and Recreation, on.nyc.gov/3hXQn3x.

  4. Lillian Faderman, To Believe in Women (‪Boston-New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1999).

  5. “Roosevelts Rent Apartment Here,” The New York Times, March 28, 1942.

  6. “Questions and Answers About Eleanor Roosevelt,” The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers Project, The George Washington University, n.d., bit.ly/2dQlZFW.

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