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Lynette Long, Ph.D., President of EVE

street sign jeffersonCan you think of any streets that are named after women? I can’t. You might think street names and street signs are trivial, but I don’t. Every time I drive down FDR Drive or Martin Luther King Boulevard, my brain ingests a subtle but significant message: men create history. Well, to my way of thinking, women have created a lot of history too, even though much of this history is neither reported nor celebrated. It’s time to acknowledge some of this history and a great way to do it is via street signs.

Street signs are inexpensive, highly visible and long lasting. Street signs are a fantastic value in terms of activism. My hometown, the District of Columbia, has been home to many great American women for at least part of their lives. Renaming the blocks on which these women lived would create a lot of visibility for women and women’s history and give young girls the psychological boost they need to make a difference.

diego hair salonA portion of Q Street (between Connecticut Avenue and 19th Street NW) was just named after Diego, a barber who has owned a barbershop for decades on that specific block. I, personally, have nothing against Diego. I have never met the man, but I find it unconscionable that Diego gets a street named after him, yet the many great women who have lived in Washington and contributed much to our country have not been similarly acknowledged. There are no streets named after Dr. Dorothy Height, Eleanor Roosevelt, Jackie Kennedy, Sandra Day O’Connor, Geraldine Ferraro, Chita Rivera, Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth, Shirley Chisholm, Bella Abzug, Helen Hayes, or Abigail Adams, all of whom spent part of their lives in this city.

With that in mind, I sent an email last week to the members of the DC City Council and asked for their support with this project. DC is divided into eight wards, each with their own city council members. In addition, there are five at-large members of the city council. So far, four of the thirteen members of the city council have agreed to help me. I live in Ward 2 and it infuriated me that my own city council member, Jack Evans, was “too busy” to meet with me or help with this project. Don’t worry, I didn’t fail to remind him that I am his constituent and that my property taxes help pay his salary. It’s amazing: he has teenage triplets, two of whom are girls, and he didn’t grasp the significance of this project and the impact it could have on his daughters.

So far, I’ve learned that there is a difference between having a street renamed and granting a street a ceremonial designation. When a street is renamed the old street signs are taken down and new street signs put up along the entire length of the street. Changing the name of a street (even short streets) is more expensive than one might think, because it requires that maps, GPS systems, and a whole host of other navigation elements be changed. Obviously changing the name of major thoroughfares is a major undertaking.

dc street signsIn contrast, giving a single block a ceremonial designation means “naming” a single block after someone. The old street sign is not taken down but kept in place. The street is not actually renamed, but rather a second street sign which honors a specific person is placed under the original street name.

Now that I have enlisted the support of some of the members of the DC City Council, the task ahead is simple but not easy. I have to make a list of noteworthy American women who have lived in the District of Columbia. That’s the simple part. The hard part is locating the specific address where each of these women lived in DC. Once I locate these addresses, I will contact the city council member from the appropriate ward, and ask for the street to be renamed or given ceremonial designation.

I’ll keep you updated on my progress. If anyone has any suggestions on who knows the exact addresses where these women lived, or would like to suggest other women to be so honored, I’m all ears.

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30 Responses
  1. Kathy says:

    The names of streets we drive up and down on a regular basis going to work, visit family and friends or sight-seeing impact our perception of who or what our communities value and honor. Communities honor contributions of individuals by naming streets after these individuals. Street names send powerful messages.

  2. Molly says:

    What I find really encouraging is that the city council people said yes. We can try doing this everywhere. I wonder how common it is for cities to have these ceremonial street names?

  3. Greta says:

    Interesting about the ceremonial designation. So would the mailing address change to the ceremonial designation, the street name or both? I’d like to have an address on Eleanor Roosevelt Way one day!

  4. Hedonia says:

    So true. The street names, statues, money all say “men create history”. Maybe not so subtle b/c most people believe it. This sounds like a great project. Thanks for the post!

  5. Casey Ann says:

    If other cities don’t have ceremonial designations, it’s probably just because no one suggested it. We should all suggest it to our cities. I imagine the mailing address remains the official designation, but it would be fun to use the ceremonial one and see what happens.

  6. Jennifer Lyon says:

    I am happy to report that there is a street named for Rosa Parks in Detroit. It’s a somewhat busy street too. I also know of a Bethune Avenue off Woodward near the New Center, but I don’t know if it was named for Mary McLeod Bethune or not.

  7. dc girl says:

    I think it’s terrible your council member wouldn’t meet with you. When is his term up?

  8. ecantrell says:

    I used to live in DC, and now that I think of it, I don’t know many street names that are named after women. I think this is an excellent idea.

  9. Georgina says:

    Once I locate these addresses, I will contact the city council member from the appropriate ward, and ask for the street to be renamed or given ceremonial designation.

    At that point, does the city council vote on it or seomthing? Do we need to sign a petition?

  10. AnacostiaAnnie says:

    I found the website for Jack Evans, the council guy who told Dr. Long he was too busy:

    http://www.dccouncil.washington.dc.us/EVANS/website/index.html

    I’m tempted to send him a letter.

  11. My God! They’re gonna take over the world! | Reclusive Leftist says:

    [...] for world domination appear to be proceeding apace over at the Secret Feminist Cabal. Now they’re talking about re-naming the streets in Washington [...]

  12. sissyphissy says:

    ‘Course he’s too busy. lol. Aren’t men always too busy for womens history?

  13. Lorenzo from Oz says:

    That’s where us monarchies have an advantage. I live in a State (Victoria) named after a woman and the main street of my city (Melbourne), Elizabeth St is also named after a woman.

    More seriously, what a great point, even given the “historical lag” issue, and a fine idea.

  14. BLT says:

    Dear Dr. Long and other members of EVE:

    I found my way over here from Reclusive Leftist, where I am a longtime reader (lurker, really). I just want to say how much I appreciate the efforts being undertaken by this organization.

    I do not know if a letter-writing campaign to Mr. Evans or the other City Council members in Washington would be in order, but I would certainly be happy to participate.

    Thank you for everything you’re doing.

  15. tinfoil hattie says:

    Nannie Helen Burroughs Blvd is in DC. What, you griping feminists want MORE THAN ONE STREET named after women? Yeesh.

    I’ll write to council members, or research where women lived, or anything you need.

  16. KT2010 says:

    The subtle, yet effective sexism of naming street names foren is a sexist practice that reinforces the sexist idea that men are worthy of honor.
    This must have adverse affects on girls as they grow. Children all seek role models to emulate.

  17. Jackie L. Lane says:

    This is from the Washington Post article about the naming of the street after Diego D’Ambrosio:

    The street name puts D’Ambrosio in the company of former NAACP president Kivie Kaplan, godfather of go-go music Chuck Brown and Ben’s Chili Bowl founder Ben Ali, each of whom has the same honor.

    Michael Silverstein, a Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission member, said, “These are the people who give flavor to our neighborhood and bring joy to our lives. They certainly mean more to us, personally, than the heroes who may have fought in a war 100 years ago or may have settled this area 200 years ago, not to disparage them.” The commission sponsored the street renaming.

    So it seems like only men bring flavor to neighborhoods and joy to our lives?

  18. m Andrea says:

    This is truly excellent and while this is good enough for now, I do indeed think women should have avenues named after them, for real. As Michelle Obama said, “this isn’t my country”.

  19. Glockoma says:

    Every single day I pass dozens of street signs, yet I didn’t even notice how the names were so male-dominated until you mentioned it.

    Thank you for writing this. It’s an overlooked issue that needs to be addressed, and I’m pleased that you’ve decided to take action.

    I don’t think that any intelligent person would refute the statement that women also create history, so why then should they not be celebrated, too? Men aren’t the only ones changing the world.

  20. Riding in a Streetcar Named (Feminist) Desire « Glockoma says:

    [...] Lynette Long’s post, Name That Street, she mentions how “street signs are inexpensive, highly visible, and long lasting” ways [...]

  21. Dr. Lynette Long says:

    Thanks to everyone for your support. This is a very important project that has longlasting implications. Currently five members of the DC City Council are willing to help us. If you have a woman you would like to honored please send EVE her name, address in DC, and dates of residence in DC. After DC we are heading to New York. If you are willing to help with research for this project please contact me at president@equalvisibilityeverywhere.org
    Thanks again for your support and spread the word about EVE.

  22. naomi dagen bloom says:

    Reclusive Leftist blog reporting sent me here. Naming streets for women ought to happen all over the U.S. Oregon is planning for 100th anniversary of woman suffrage in 2012; this would be a very good addition.

    Abagail Scott Duniway was newspaper publisher, first to vote in Multnomah County (where Portland is). Little park named for her but there are others. Thanks for the idea!

  23. LynnRme says:

    This is something I have never thought about; I intend to share it with my friends. Thanks for bringing it to our attention. May I suggest a letter to your councilman with copies to his wife and daughters?
    {Spirit of 76}

  24. Dr. Lynette Long says:

    This is an easy project that I hope everyone does in their hometowns. Now that I have started this project I have some helpful hints. Reseach the names and addresses of the prospective women to have streets named after before you approach your city council. Second, if you want to get the name of a street actually changed have the people who live on the street sign a petition and speak at the next city council meeting. You’ll be surprised the publicity you can generate for women’s history, since the local press with cover the “unveiling” of the street sign.

  25. teresainpa says:

    good list and I could think of many more, however Hillary Clinton comes to mind. She is after all the first 1st lady to win a seat in the senate and then win the presidential primary .

  26. teresainpa says:

    well we do have states and cities and such named after women, but they are all long dead English royalty.

  27. CHChick says:

    I have nothing against this project per se, but as a proud Washingtonian myself, I have zero interest in renaming our fine streets so that I can feel better about myself through someone elses accomplishments.

    The real issue we should be concerned about is what on earth we’re doing wrong as a society that naming more streets after great men than women can in any way be damaging to a girls psyche. I am a strong, proud, empowered young professional female. It has never once crossed my mind that there is a need for a gender war. There are great PEOPLE. Throughout our history most of the honored ones are men. I was always raised with the outlook that PEOPLE can do great things, and just like Jefferson, Washington, Adams, etc, so can I.

    That’s a much more empowering view than having self-esteem based on the recognition of others.

  28. admin says:

    CHChick, no one is advocating “self-esteem based on the recognition of others.” The goal is exactly what you say is a good thing:

    “I was always raised with the outlook that PEOPLE can do great things, and just like Jefferson, Washington, Adams, etc, so can I.”

    Right. That’s the empowering aspect of honoring great women — so that girls will say “I can do that too.”

    If you personally have always been able to identify as much with men as with women, then good for you. That’s great. However, most people can’t. Throughout the world and throughout history, girls have identified with women role models and boys have identified with men role models. Whether and to what extent this is changeable is unclear. But I suspect it will be a lot easier to just change the street names.

  29. Nancy Foye-Cox says:

    A street was recently named for Rosa Parks near the new bus terminal here in Akron OH. I hope to find other streets and roads named after women. Several Akron schools and housing projects are named for women too, including Judith A. Resnik Elementary School and Community Learning Center.

  30. EVE kicks off Street Names project in D.C. : EVE | Equal Visibility Everywhere says:

    [...] month our president, Dr. Lynette Long, blogged about street names in Washington, D.C. and her letter to the City Council members about the importance of honoring women. Today Dr. Long [...]