How West Side Rag — and Mostly New York Life — Helped Break Ground for a Groundbreaking Statue


Heather Nesle, President of the New York Life Foundation, speaking in front of the spot where the statue will be placed. Sitting and standing next to her are (from left to right): Pam Elam, president of The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund; Councilmember Helen Rosenthal; Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver; and Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell.

By Carol Tannenhauser

You publish a story and you hope that it will move someone, maybe, even, to action. Rarely do you find out. This time was different.

On a beautiful autumn day Monday, a group of elated (some elected) individuals came together to recognize and celebrate the site of the first statue of a historical woman — make that two women — in Central Park. It would be placed on the formal Mall, mid-park, between 67th and 68th Streets, just up the block from the old boys’ club known as Literary Walk, featuring Shakespeare, Burns, Hallek, Scott, and, for some reason, Christopher Columbus.

Well, look out, boys, in 2020, in time for the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which awarded women the right to vote, two of those responsible for bringing it about — Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony — will be memorialized.

Stanton’s great-great granddaughter Coline Jenkins was there. I made my way to her, not knowing this was going to be one of those rare times I mentioned.

“I’m from the West Side Rag,” I said.

“Ooh, I love you guys!” she cried, and kissed me.

I know the Rag is popular, but I’ve never gotten a greeting like that before.

She rushed off to find another woman, calling over her shoulder, “You connected us! It was through you! She’s president of the New York Life Foundation. She’s on our board now. If it weren’t for you…”.

She returned with Heather Nesle, who explained:

“In the summer of 2016, there was a little piece in the West Side Rag about getting the first female statue in Central Park. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, I live here. I can’t believe I never realized there were no women statues.’ Then, I saw Susan B. Anthony was involved and I knew she was a policyholder at New York Life, and she used the cash value of her policy to help women get into the University of Rochester, and her brother and brother-in-law and father were New York Life agents, so I thought, ‘This is exactly something I want to be a part of.’

“That’s how it all started. I saw it in the Rag.

“So, I went back to my boss and to my CEO and I said, ‘It makes sense for us to help get this going. We decided we were going to do a challenge grant. And I said, ‘Maybe we should give a quarter of a million dollars, they have to raise a million and a half, and my CEO said, ‘Let’s give half a million. Let’s really do this and get it going.’

“It started with the Rag. I’m an Upper West Sider. See? Local newspapers — they’re the best. It worked out great.”

NEWS | 13 comments | permalink
    1. Jerry says:

      Love this! Wonderful story! Congrats to Carol and the WSR!

    2. Tony says:

      In the meantime visit Eleanor Roosevelt at 72nd & Riverside, Joan of Arc at 93rd and Riverside (also done by a woman), and Harriet Tubman in Harlem.

    3. Jane says:

      Three cheers for the West Side Rag!

    4. Lisa says:

      Well done, WSR!

    5. dannyboy says:

      Well done!

    6. Leda says:

      I love this story! Good for you for igniting that flame, and nice for you to have learned that you did!

    7. Trish Anderton says:

      How exciting! Well done, Ragsters.

    8. Chase says:

      you really had to call out columbus in this write up? just enjoy the honor and savor the moment. you wanna start beef in the midst of this? weird execution if you ask me.

    9. Rolu says:

      Very cool, taking down statues of old white men and putting up ones of old white women!

    10. Parker says:

      Fantastic! This is a perfect example of the importance of local journalism and the impact it can have!

    11. Denaliboy says:

      Wonderful story