Our Origin

Rachel Hodges

All of this started with a map.

It was a Christmas gift from my son, given to me in 2018, and though it featured something we’ve all heard about, or maybe even experienced firsthand—namely, the New York City subway system—this was no ordinary map.

The train routes through the city’s underground were unchanged. But the names of the subway stops themselves were quite different. Because on this City of Women map, created by writers Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, all of the stops were named for women, rather than men.

Their concept moved me. Women contribute so much to our families, our workplaces, our lives, and our communities, yet our names and accomplishments go largely unrecognized in our public spaces. This map acknowledged that truth. And it acknowledged the power behind giving women the recognition they deserve. 

I wondered, what exactly would a Columbia City of Women map look like?

Who would our city map include, and how could we expand on Solnit and Jelly-Schapiro’s original concept? How could we go beyond sharing the names of these women and also bring forward their stories and their accomplishments?

I asked myself, who are the women galvanizing things forward in Columbia? Knowing the value of recognizing both women from the past and the present, I decided to reach out to Robin Waites at Historic Columbia and Ann Warner at WREN (the Women’s Rights & Empowerment Network). Together, we began to imagine how we could make this concept a reality. 

We saw this as our opportunity to champion the untold stories of the women who have shaped this city for the better.

In the months to come, their organizations and a total of eight women joined forces with me to launch the Columbia City of Women project. We began working to build an interactive platform that celebrates the under-sung women leaders of the Capital City. 

As we share the stories of great Columbia women, we honor remarkable accomplishments and we affirm that recognizing women matters. We hope that, in turn, spurs others to share the stories of strong, courageous women in their lives, encouraging connectedness in our city and empowering future generations to serve their community in equally impactful ways.

As Solnit wrote in an essay accompanying her original City of Women map, “This map is a memorial and a celebration.” The same holds true of our project. We're sharing what is, what was, and what can be.