Women of Washington Square Park: Celebrating Women’s History Month in New York City

Women of Washington Square Park

Greenwich Village has always been home to some of New York’s greatest figures, with Washington Square Park functioning as the beating heart of The Village’s unique culture and character. This March, as we celebrate Women’s History Month, let’s turn our focus to some of the notable women whose lives connect with this historic space.

Some names come to mind easier than others when considering influential Villagers. Iconic figures like Joan Baez captivated audiences with her folk songs in the ’60s, listened to across the country but truly anchored in the counterculture of The Village, where her lyrics played, echoed on years later in “Diamonds and Rust”: 

Over Washington Square / Our breath comes out white clouds / Mingles and hangs in the air / Speaking strictly for me / We both could have died then and there. . .

But long before the folk revival, other women were making their voices heard in Washington Square.

In the early 1900s, the park became the base of different political activism than that of the ’60s. Suffragists like Edna Kearns and Harriot Stanton Blatch used the park’s open space to hold rallies and marches, demanding voting rights for women. Their determination, alongside countless others, eventually paved the way for the passing of the 19th Amendment.

Beyond politics, Washington Square Park has fostered a vibrant artistic scene that still defines the area to this day. In the 1920s, artists like sculptor Malvina Hoffman, known for her bust of dancer Anna Pavlova, found inspiration in the park’s energy. Musicians like violinist Sylvia Lent performed for parkgoers, some even busking to earn a living.  These women weren’t just creating art, they were breaking barriers in a male-dominated field.

Fast forward to today, and the tradition continues. Street performers of all genders keep the artistic spirit of Washington Square Park alive. The park offers dimensions of appreciation outside the beauty and charm of its appearance—it’s a microcosm of the Greenwich Village spirit itself.  It’s a place where women, throughout history, have used their voices, their creativity, and their strength to challenge norms and leave their mark.  

Next time you find yourself strolling through the park, and enjoying the atmosphere shaped by its nearly two centuries of influence, take a moment to appreciate the legacy these remarkable women have left in their wake. They are an essential part of the story of Washington Square Park, Greenwich Village, New York, and beyond.