Women's Contributions to Central Park Highlighted in New Series

By Lindsay Armstrong on March 27, 2014 9:11am 

 The Angel of the Waters statue is one of many elements in Central Park that was designed by a woman.
The Angel of the Waters statue is one of many elements in Central Park that was designed by a woman.
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UPPER EAST SIDE — Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux may have designed Central Park, and Robert Moses may have presided over its first revitalization, but the city’s most iconic green space has also been strongly influenced by women. 

In honor of Women’s History Month, the Central Park Conservancy is holding a series of events to highlight the role women have played in shaping the park, from the original design inception to today’s management.

“Women played an important but often overlooked role in the design and care of Central Park," said Conservancy historian Sara Cedar Miller, who will host the first event of the series on Thursday, in a statement.

“The Park was designed, in part, to give single women and women caregivers a safe, comfortable place to visit, and it was a woman who later founded the Conservancy to revitalize the neglected Park.”

Women also designed some of Central Park’s most beloved attractions.

Emma Stebbins, one of the country’s first notable female sculptors, created the Angel of the Waters statue that sits atop Bethesda Fountain. The Angel was the park’s first statue and remains one of its most famous, according to the Conservancy. Similarly, landscape architect Betty Sprout played a major role in the design for the Conservatory Garden, which remains the only formal garden in the park.

It was also women who led the charge to save the park after its severe decline in the 1970s, the Conservancy said.

The Central Park Conservancy, the nonprofit organization that continues to manage the park today, was founded in 1980 in part by civic activist Elizabeth Barlow Rogers. Rogers served as the city’s first Central Park Administrator and presided over several major restoration projects, including Belvedere Castle and the Harlem Meer.

In addition, the Conservancy’s Women’s Committee, founded in 1983, raises nearly 15 percent of the organization’s $58 million annual budget. 

The Conservancy hopes the series will educate more people about women’s many contributions to Central Park.

“As we do with all of our tours, programs and lectures, we developed this series to help visitors discover a new layer of Central Park,” said Dena Libner, a spokeswoman for the Conservancy.

After the March 27 event, another talk and a tour of the Conservatory Garden will take place in April and May.

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