← Back

Who Were the Most Impactful Women of Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo?

March is Women’s History Month. To mark the occasion, we’re taking a look at just some of the incredible women of our neighborhoods who had the deepest impact upon our world. With your input, we’re going to select the twenty-five most impactful.

Below are seventy extraordinary women of Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo, who made their marks in fields from politics to music, literature to labor. Learn more about all of them by reading below and clicking on their links. Then tell us which ones you would pick as those who made the biggest difference.

To vote for your top ten picks, click here.

(l. to r., top to bottom) Abbott, Arbus, Abzug, Baez, Barnes, Blackwell, Brownmiller. To vote for your top ten picks, click here.

Berenice Abbott — Pioneering photographer whose iconic images defined a changing early 20th century New York.

Diane Arbus — Transformative and celebrated photographer who captured outsiders and oddballs, many of whom were found in Greenwich Village at the East Village, which she called home most of her life.

Bela Abzug — Lawyer, politician, social activist, and feminist, she co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus and distinguished herself in Congress as a champion of women’s rights, LGBT rights, an end to the Vietnam War, and a leading advocate for the impeachment of Richard Nixon.

Joan Baez — Trailblazing and world-renowned singer, songwriter, musician and activist.

Djuna Barnes — Modernist artist, writer, journalist, and author whose “Nightwood” gave unprecedented visibility to the lesbian experience.

Elizabeth Blackwell — First woman doctor in America and public health pioneer serving women, children, and the poor.

Susan Brownmiller — Journalist, author, and feminist activist, her “Against Our Will — Men, Women, and Rape” was named one of the 100 most important books of the 20th century by the New York Public Library.

(l. to r., top to bottom) Bryant, Burke, Cather, Davis, Day, de Kooning, Earhart. To vote for your top ten picks, click here.

Louise Bryant —Noted feminist, political activist, and journalist who chronicled the Russian Revolution.

Selma Hortense Burke —Groundbreaking sculptor and Harlem Renaissance figure who integrated African themes and influences into her art while creating enduring portraits of prominent figures from FDR to Booker T. Washington.

Willa Cather — Pulitzer-prize winning author considered the great chronicler of life on the American Plains.

Angela Davis —Political activist, academic, and author, she was a leading voice in both the African American civil rights and women’s rights movements.

Dorothy Day — Journalist, anarchist and bohemian, she co-founded the Catholic Worker movement and is now considered a candidate for sainthood.

Elaine de Kooning — Leading abstract expressionist and figurative expressionist painter, teacher, and writer.

Amelia Earhart — aviation pioneer, first female to make a solo Atlantic crossing by air.

(l. to r., top to bottom) Eastman, Fauset, Friedan, Garnet, Gibbons, Goldman, Graham. To vote for your top ten picks, click here.

Crystal Eastman — Suffragist, peace activist, lawyer, co-founder of the ACLU, the Liberator Magazine, and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

Jessie Redmon Fauset The “Midwife of the Harlem Renaissance,” writer, and educator, as literary editor of The Crisis magazine she helped launch the career of countless African American writers and artists.

Betty Friedan — Writer and activist whose “The Feminine Mystique” profoundly shaped second wave feminism, she co-founded and was the first President of NOW.

Sarah Smith Garnett — Leading educator and women’s suffragist who became the first black principal in the NYC school system

Abigail Hopper Gibbons — Abolitionist, reformer, and social welfare activist, she co-founded the Women’s Prison Association.

Emma Goldman — Anarchist, free love advocate, anti-war activist, labor leader and contraception proponent.

Elizabeth Jennings Graham — Spearheaded campaign to desegregate NYC streetcars, the “Rosa Parks” of the 19th century.

(l. to r., top to bottom) Graham, Hagen, Hansberry, Harry, Holliday, Holladay, Howe. To vote for your top ten picks, click here.

Martha Graham — The “Picasso of Dance,” she revolutionized and profoundly shaped modern dance.

Uta Hagen — Highly influential actress, dramatist, teacher, and human rights advocate.

Lorraine Hansberry — Celebrated playwright and civil rights activist, her “Raisin in the Sun” was the first play by an African American woman produced on Broadway.

Debbie Harry — Singer, songwriter and actress who helped usher in the CBGB punk revolution and profoundly shaped popular music. 

Billie Holiday — Influential jazz and swing singer whose vocal style and improvisational techniques helped shape American music. 

Polly Holladay — Greenwich Village radical and reformer, her restaurant became a meeting place and incubator for artists, activists, and free-thinking women.

Julia Ward Howe — Author, poet, suffragist, peace activist, abolitionist, writer of “Battle Hymn of the Republic” and founder of “Mother’s Day.”

(l. to r., top to bottom) Howe, Irwin, Jacobs, Joplin, Keller, Krasner, Lazarus. To vote for your top ten picks, click here.

Marie Jenney Howe — Leading suffragist, writer, and founder of the highly influential Heterodoxy Club.

Elizabeth Irwin — Progressive education reformer, founder of Little Red Schoolhouse.

Jane Jacobs — Journalist, author, preservationist and activist, she redefined thinking around the functioning of cities, taking on and defeating Robert Moses.

Janis Joplin — Blues-inspired and influential rock and roll singer, musician, and performer.

Helen Keller —Disability advocate and women’s suffrage, labor, and peace activist; first deafblind person to receive a B.A.  

Lee Krasner — Trailblazing abstract expressionist painter who helped bridge early 20th century artistic styles and post-war sensibilities.

Emma Lazarus — Author of “The New Colossus” now affixed to the Statue of Liberty, philanthropist, immigrant advocate.

(l. to r., top to bottom) Lee, Lemlich, Levitt, Luhan, Madonna, the Widow Marycke, Mead. To vote for your top ten picks, click here.

Mabel Ping-Hua Lee — Leading activist for women’s rights and suffrage and Chinese-Americans.

Clara Lemlich — Suffragist, labor leader, consumer activist, and leader of the Uprising of 20,000 Shirtwaist Workers strike.

Helen Levitt — Celebrated photographer,  cinematographer, and chronicler of street life in mid-century New York.

Mabel Dodge Luhan — Patron of the arts and influential literary “salon” convener.

Madonna — The “Queen of Pop,” whose multiple reinventions both influenced popular music and culture and helped introduce the masses to underground forms she mined and popularized. 

The Widow Marycke — One of a pioneering group of African Americans who formed the first free black settlement in North America, she was the only women and one of the very first non-native settlers of today’s Greenwich Village 

Margaret Mead — Influential cultural anthropologist, and writer who helped shape the sexual revolution of the 1960s.

(l. to r., top to bottom) Milholland, Millay, Mitchell, Moore, Nin, Okubo, Ono. To vote for your top ten picks, click here.

Inez Milholland — Outspoken women’s suffrage leader and peace activist, she led the 1913 Women’s Suffrage procession on horseback.

Edna St. Vincent Millay — Celebrated poet, playwright, and feminist, she exemplified the libertine “New Woman” of the early 20th century.

Joan Mitchell — Painter, printmaker, abstract expressionist, and leading female figure among the notoriously male-dominated New York School of Artists.

Marianne Moore — Influential modernist poet, critic, translator, editor, and women’s suffrage  advocate.

Anais Nin — Trailblazing author and artist known for frank depictions of female sexuality.

Mine Okubo — Artist and writer whose chronicles of her time in WW II Japanese American internment camps became the forerunner of the graphic novel.

Yoko Ono — Multimedia artist, singer, songwriter, performance artist, filmmaker, and political activist, her own artistic career began with the downtown avant-garde Fluxus group.

(l. to r., top to bottom) Perkins, Price, Rauh, Roosevelt, Simo, Sanger, Schneiderman. To vote for your top ten picks, click here.

Frances Perkins — First female U.S. cabinet secretary, labor advocate and reformer.

Leontyne Pryce — Pathbreaking opera singer who expanded the art form and opened doors for African Americans.

Ida Rauh — Noted suffragist, actress, sculptor, poet, and co-founder of the Provincetown Players.

Eleanor Roosevelt — Trailblazing First Lady, crusader for civil and human rights, diplomat, and preservationist.

Ana Marie Simo — playwright and co-founder of the Lesbian Avengers and Medusa’s Revenge, NY’s first lesbian theater.

Margaret Sanger — Birth control activist, writer, and nurse, she coined the term “birth control,” opened the first birth control clinic and founded Planned Parenthood.

Rose Scheniderman — Coiner of “bread and roses,” she was a labor and women’s suffrage leader who co-founded the ACLU and helped lead response to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

(l. to r., top to bottom) Simkhovitch, Smith, Sotomayor, Stokes, Streisand, Tarbell, Wadleigh. To vote for your top ten picks, click here.

Mary Kingsbury Simkhovitch — Social reformer and activist, city planner, advocate for the poor, and founder of Greenwich House.

Patti Smith — Singer, songwriter, poet, painter, author, and “Godmother of Punk.”

Sonia Sotomayor — Jurist and first Latinx member of the U.S. Supreme Court, as well as only the third woman on the court and only the third person of color.

Rose Pastor Stokes — Controversial social activist, feminist, birth control proponent, and socialist labor advocate.

Barbra Streisand — Singer, actress and director whose six decade career has earned an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony, selling over 150 million records worldwide to be one of the best selling all time artists.  

Ida Tarbell — “Muckraking” investigative journalist and lecturer who inspired Progressive Era reforms while taking on corporate giant Standard Oil.

Lillian Fowler Wadleigh — Advocate for the education of women and girls, she helped found some of the first schools in New York City for girls which became a national and worldwide model. 

(l. to r., top to bottom) Wald, West, Wharton, Whitney, Wilson, Windsor, Woodhull. To vote for your top ten picks, click here.

Lilian Wald — Humanitarian, social reformer, advocate for children, the poor and public health, she coined the term “public health nurse,” co-founded the NAACP and founded the Henry Street Settlement.

Mae West — Stage and screen actress, sex symbol, playwright, screenwriter, singer and provocateur.

Edith Wharton — First female recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction and renowned chronicler of life in Gilded Age New York.

Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney — Sculptor, art patron and collector who founded the first museum dedicated to living American art and artists.

Margaret Woodrow Wilson — A former First Lady and First Daughter, she lobbied her father on suffrage and civil rights, and made a name for herself as a singer and devotee of eastern mysticism.

Edie Windsor — LGBTQ+ rights activist whose Supreme Court case paved the way for legal same-sex marriage in the U.S.

Victoria Woodhull — Writer, feminist, suffragist, stock broker, abolitionist and free love advocate, she was the first woman candidate for the United States presidency.

We want to hear from you — who do you think had the biggest impact? To vote for your top ten picks, click here.

3 responses to “Who Were the Most Impactful Women of Greenwich Village, the East Village, and NoHo?

  1. I Believe Bella Abzug would be the perfect candidate for this award. She’s truly remarkable NYC political activist who didn’t get the recognition she deserved; because she was a mouthy loud woman. She was a feminist, accomplished woman who stood her ground for all women! Let’s honor her memory.

  2. Have you ever heard of Clara Tice? She was known as the Queen of Greenwich Village for many years. Please Google her and perhaps rethink your choices. I am absolutely serious. She was one of the most famous people ever to live in the village.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *