Who Do the Streets in Your Town Commemorate?

The next time you are out for a run or relaxing day with friends, take a look at the street signs along your route. You’ll likely see that the most common street names are numeric (Second, Third) followed by trees (Oak, Pine). Of course, there are also many streets named after famous people like Martin Luther King, Jr, and George Washington. One thing you won’t see a lot of, however, are streets named after women.

According to an article in The New York Times, while streets are named after women many commemorated are the wives of famous men (Catherine Street, named after the wife of Hendrick Rutgers) with a few notable women who are long gone and unknown to many today (Margaret Corbin Drive, named after a heroine of the Revolutionary War).

This lack of female representation on signposts isn’t unique to the United States. One interactive map shows the paucity of streets named after women and determined that for the seven major cities that they examined “on average, only 27.5 percent of the studied streets had female names.” Among Rome’s 16,550, researchers found that “just 580 (3.5%) were named after women.”

So does the imbalance in streets that commemorate women matter? Well, perhaps because the lack of recognition for contributions made by women is yet another way that subtly reinforces the common narrative that “men make history” and women’s contributions really aren’t all that important. Tell that to the women who have made mighty advances, including scientists, philosophers and every category in between . Or better yet, take a stand with your friends to increase the public recognition of women along the streets of our cities, towns, and suburbs.

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