NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – City Hall’s halls just got a little brighter after the council added four portraits to their gallery of prominent New Yorkers.
There’s Pura Belpré, the City’s first Puerto Rican librarian; Chien-Shiung Wu, a math and physics scholar at Columbia University; Elizabeth Jennings Graham, an African American civil rights activist; and Edie Windsor, a prominent LGBTQ activist.
They join the eight portraits unveiled last year, reports CBS2’s Tara Jakeway. The exhibition titled “Women’s Voices: Shaping the City” is meant to counteract the under-representation of women in the city’s public art and monuments.
“I understand why we have a lot of very old guys in very big paintings but I’m very glad that now we’re beginning to balance that,” said famed women’s rights activist Gloria Steinem.
Steinem beamed as she checked out the gallery. As the founder of the feminism movement, she hopes all government buildings will follow suit.
“We have a chance to make a symbol for the rest of the country here and we’re trying to do that,” said Steinem.
“It helps our people the Asian population to know that they can strive to be up there,” said Kalin Tang, who is inspired by Wu, a Chinese American scholar in multiple fields. “I’m a nursing student right now and just to know that there are endless possibilities for me.”
Lamaisia Dean wants to improve the education system like Graham, who founded the city’s first kindergarten for African American children.
“I feel inspired she makes me want to do better for my community and for women all over,” said Lamaisia Dean of Kingsbridge in the Bronx.
Freida Solomon considers herself an advocate for same-sex marriage, a battle that Windsor took all the way to the United States Supreme Court.
“That takes insane bravery and it’s hard to go up against that, with so many people against you,” said Solomon.
The new portraits are empowering even one of New York’s most powerful.
“I think its a teaching moment,” said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. “I hope they keep doing it.”
It’s a rare occasion that there are new additions to the walls at City Hall, as the majority of the paintings have been hanging there for more than 200 years.
The portraits are chosen by the city ouncil speaker’s office and the New York Historical Society.
The exhibition is open to the public but patrons must go through security clearance.