There is not a single statue of a real woman in Central Park. Good grief.
I did not know that until Thursday when Jami Floyd did a segment on WNYC-FM about this ludicrous injustice.
Juliet of Verona. Mother Goose. Forty-four statues of men, but none of women who actually walked this earth. .
My first response was, of course, Grete Waitz. She flitted through the streets of New York like a super-powered sprite from Norway, nine times ending up in Central Park as the winner of the New York Marathon.
And still no statue?
One could argue that her athletic achievement was the greatest by a female athlete within the borders of the big city. She owned the town, nine Sundays in November. She set an example of talent, grace and will, and New Yorkers claim her, despite the statue of her in Oslo.
Waitz passed way too young in 2011, at the age of 57. She remains the embodiment of the sport. Men and women think about her when they put one foot after another.
I know there is a statue of Fred Lebow, the big macher who built the New York Marathon, on the east side of Central Park. I jogged a few miles alongside them, through Brooklyn, in 1992, the day Waitz escorted Lebow, who was dying of brain cancer, on his last run around the city. But this is no time for Tracy-and-Hepburn sentiment.
Waitz deserves her own statue, right near the finish line on the west side of the park.
Obviously, there are hundreds of deserving women to right this wrong. My mom is out there, telling me, “Eleanor Roosevelt! Dorothy Day! Marian Anderson!"
People were calling WNYC, nominating Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Marie Curie, Jackie Kennedy, dozens of worthy people.
Nobody ever ruled Central Park the way Grete Waitz did. In a New York minute, get her a statue.
“They may hate the cultural context they now find themselves teaching in, but they love their work. The Achilles’ heel of schoolteachers, one all too easily exploited by politicians, is that they love their students.”
(One of the best reads in the NYT these days is Margaret Renkl, in Nashville. In her latest post, Renkl describes the dedicated core of “born teachers” – the majority, she submits.)
(From Madeleine Albright in one of her final interviews in February):
“Putin is small and pale,” I wrote, “so cold as to be almost reptilian.” He claimed to understand why the Berlin Wall had to fall but had not expected the whole Soviet Union to collapse. “Putin is embarrassed by what happened to his country and determined to restore its greatness.” – Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, recalling her first meeting with the relatively unknown Vladimir Putin in 2000. – The New York Times, Feb. 23, 2022.