Governor Kathy Hochul today announced the opening of The Girl Puzzle Monument Honoring Nellie Bly on Roosevelt Island in Manhattan. The monument was designed by Amanda Matthews of Prometheus Art to illuminate women who have endured hardship but are stronger for it.
"As the first woman to ever serve as Governor of the State of New York, I'm proud to lead the state that was the birthplace of the fight for women's rights," said Governor Hochul. "This monument, with its five faces representing the broad diversity of so many women, will provide a poignant educational and meaningful destination for visitors to reflect on our shared history and remember that women's rights are human rights."
The monument consists of five towering bronze faces depicting not only Bly, but four other faces in various patinas representing Asian American, Black, young, older, and queer women. Visitors to The Girl Puzzle will notice that some faces seem to be in pieces, while others appear to have had cracks repaired. This represents the prevalence of women being broken by the world around them yet, having the strength to repair themselves. Engraved behind each face are words written by Bly, representing the spirit and complexity of women and their stories.
It was Bly's words that made her famous and the monument is named after her first published work, "The Girl Puzzle." At the center of the monument are three silver globes honoring Bly's groundbreaking journalistic career that saw her voice grow from a columnist at a local Pittsburgh newspaper, to writing and later making headlines in Joseph Pulitzer's New York World.
Her most celebrated work, "Ten Days in a Mad-House," published in 1887, is considered the first piece of investigative journalism and is the reason that Bly could easily be considered one of Roosevelt Island's most influential historical figures. Feigning insanity, Bly gained admittance to the problematic Blackwell Island Asylum. Based on her time there, Bly reported on the deplorable conditions for New York World while bringing to light the incredible stories of women she met there.
The asylum, now an apartment building, sits just south of the poignant monument which serves as a beacon, like the lighthouse it sits beneath at the northern tip of Roosevelt Island. Visitors to the monument will be able to fully interact with the half-ton sculptures in a number of ways including an audio tour and Braille plaques.
President and CEO of Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) Shelton J. Haynes said, "We are proud to be leading the charge in support of statues featuring women, having commissioned such an important work of art representing women and equality. This, coupled with our landmarked Blackwell House and iconic Tramway makes Roosevelt Island an exceptional destination where history, education, and current events intertwine. We're so proud to house this important and awe-inspiring monument that all New Yorkers can take pride in."
Artist Amanda Matthews said, "Nellie Bly was a transformative figure in modern history. Highly regarded as America's first investigative journalist, she dedicated her life to understanding the plight of those who exist in the margins and dismantling systems of oppression. She is best known as a champion for women and girls and opposed the notion of women as subordinate by powerfully rewriting this narrative. The Girl Puzzle monument honors the title of her first published work in 1885, a bold and unvarnished response to bigotry, and her life-changing experiences in the Blackwell Island Women's Asylum (now Roosevelt Island) that shaped her life of dedication and empathy for others."
Congresswoman Carolyn B. Maloney said, "Nellie Bly was a trailblazing investigative journalist who told individuals' stories that may not have been told otherwise. Nellie wrote about the marginalized, oppressed, and disadvantaged and often risked her life or went undercover to do so. I am proud that Governor Hochul and the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation are honoring her legacy by opening the Girl Puzzle Monument."
Senator Jose Serrano said, "I'm thrilled that this monument honoring the iconic Nellie Bly and women and girls from all walks of life will be available for residents and visitors to experience on Roosevelt Island. Art can be a significant catalyst for social change, and representation is critically important as we continue the fight for equal civil and human rights for all women in New York and across the world. I thank Governor Kathy Hochul, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, and Amanda Matthews for making The Girl Puzzle Monument a reality on Roosevelt Island."
Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright said, "Nellie Bly is not only a monumental Roosevelt Island Historical figure, she was one of the foremost courageous female journalists in the US. It was her boldness, curiosity, and independent spirit that set her apart to uncover injustices in our society. I commend the Artist Amanda Matthews for bringing this Nellie Bly to life on Roosevelt Island.
Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer said, "Nellie Bly dedicated her life to telling the truth and exposing wrongdoing and her writing sparked reform. The Girl Puzzle Monument not only honors Bly's historic and significant contributions, but also those of Asian American, Black, young, old, and queer woman. I'm grateful to the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation for commissioning this monument, appropriately located in Roosevelt Island, the location of one of her groundbreaking pieces of investigative journalism, and putting Roosevelt Island on the map as leading the charge to honor New York State's remarkable women."
New York City Council Member Ben Kallos said, "The Girl Puzzle Monument is a striking piece that brings attention to a history of hardship endured by women, old, young, black, Asian, immigrant, and queer, and their resiliency. I am proud to have allocated $70,000 for accessible elements of the piece that allow those of the disability community to experience the Monument, as well as a more interactive experience for all visitors. There is nothing like the Girl Puzzle Monument in this City and it has the power to become a true destination on Roosevelt Island. I can't wait to take my daughter to experience the piece."
About Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC)
The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) was created in 1984 by the State of New York as a public benefit corporation with a mission to plan, design, develop, operate, and maintain Roosevelt Island. With a focus on innovative and environmentally friendly solutions, RIOC is committed to providing services that enhance the island's residential community. RIOC manages the two-mile-long island's roads, parks, buildings, a sports facility, and public transportation, including the iconic Roosevelt Island Tramway. Additionally, RIOC operates a Public Safety Department that helps maintain a safe and secure environment for residents, employees, business owners, and visitors.