Mapping women’s place names in Riverside

We have added a feature, “Riverside – City of Women,” to our website, using Google maps to indicate local sites named for women. Inspired by Rebecca Solnit’s essay, “City of Women” (The New Yorker, October 11, 2016), we started paying attention to where, who, and why Riverside’s landscape is marked with the names of women. Looking at the city in this way made several things evident: (1) the vast majority of Riverside’s streets and sites are – as in most cities – named after men, (2) Riverside has more places named after women than we realized, and (3) Riverside needs MORE places named after women!

As far as we can tell, no major street in Riverside is named for a woman. The streets named after women – Tibbetts Street, Woodie Way, Mine Okubo Avenue – are often short and tucked away behind or in between main thoroughfares. Nonetheless, we mark them with pleasure, and we encourage you to alert us to any we missed.

As Rebecca Solnit wrote,

… [N]ames perpetuate the gendering of [a city]. Almost every city is full of men’s names, names that are markers of who wielded power, who made history, who held fortunes, who was remembered; women are anonymous people who changed fathers’ names for husbands’ as they married, who lived in private and were comparatively forgot­ten, with few exceptions. This naming stretches across the continent; the peaks of many Western mountains have names that make the ranges sound like the board of directors of an old corporation, and very little has been named for particular historical women…”

The women after whom places in Riverside were named were women who did things. They served, they inspired, they created, and they are remembered. They represent a stunningly broad range of work. What other places should be (re)named for women?

Using Google maps forced us to deploy another kind of activism – cartographic revision! Using Google maps to create maps is free and user-friendly, but you can only mark places that are already named… in Google maps. So we have assiduously and enthusiastically submitted additions and revisions to Google maps, and – so far – they have accepted every single one of our edits. In short, our informal (and ongoing) mapping project has improved Google maps. More significantly, we are creating a more accurate and more gendered view of place names in Riverside.

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