City of Women London redraws the Underground map to recognise notable women

The new map is designed to generate a conversation about the intersections between public spaces, history and gender; about who has the right to recognition and who deserves to be given space.

Izzy Ashton

Deputy Editor, BITE

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While many commuters haven’t set foot on a tube for months, the London Underground tube map is still a familiar site to many. The rainbow of lines that intersect and weave their way beneath the pavements, roads and train lines that crisscross above it. The station names, which become recognisable each time you travel, but often stay removed from the location above ground, a stop commuters whizz past every morning, but perhaps never visit.

A new project is capitalising on the familiarity of the tube map by calling on people to redraw the classic Transport for London Underground map by naming each stop after a notable woman, non-binary person or group with particular ties to the city through the ages. City of Women London is a public history project created in partnership between the Women of the World festival, the actor and activist Emma Watson and author Renni Eddo-Lodge. 

The project was inspired by a similar undertaking carried out on the New York Subway map in 2019 by the author Rebecca Solnit and her geographer Joshua Jelly-Schapiro that celebrated distinguished New Yorkers. As Solnit wrote in the pair’s acclaimed book Nonstop Metropolis, “What kind of silence arises in places that so seldom speak of and to women? This map was made to sing the praises of the extraordinary women who have, since the beginning, been shapers and heroes of this city that has always been, secretly, a City of Women." Solnit and Schapiro will also be part of the City of Women London team. 

What kind of silence arises in places that so seldom speak of and to women?

Rebecca Solnit

The map is designed to generate a conversation about the intersections between public spaces, history and gender; about who has the right to recognition and who deserves to be given space. It comes at a particularly poignant cultural moment in our own modern history that sees statues of infamous slave trade owners torn down and discussions ignited about who should stand on those plinths instead. 

The figures on the project will also be working alongside historians, librarians, museums and curators to produce a map of London that changes and reframes the history of it. Other similar projects over the years have included We Apologise for the Delay to Your Journey by Thick/er Black Lines, the Literary Tube Map by In the Book and the Great Bear by Simon Patterson. 

The project is inviting members of the public to nominate the women of London who they feel have been particularly heroic or have had an impact on the city that has lived on beyond their own lifetime. City of Women London is reframing the history we have all for so long assumed one perspective of, inviting people to be part of its reinterpretation. 

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