Sally Teachout, the long-time feminist attorney who defeated Andrew Cuomo last week in a Democratic primary, has been hailed as a star and lawmaker for her attack on sexual misconduct by men in high office. But her serious opponent, Teachout, appears to be following a strong tradition of female candidates who broke through in New York politics.
One of them is Lucy Diggs Slowe, a 77-year-old social activist who spent eight years as New York City’s deputy commissioner of planning before it was abolished in 1969 and became a private consultant. During her years on the city government payroll, she played a leading role in developing a very different name for New York City: the Great White City.
Slowe’s book, City of My Dreams, sparked debate in New York. So some historians, wary of her “dubious accomplishment,” cited the economic segregation of the city then as “the greatest urban tale of two cities.” But such sentiments were quickly dismissed by feminist historian Laura Urban, who argued that Slowe’s ideas were profoundly vital to the feminist struggle.
Slowe’s project began in 1970, when she walked into a floor of a New York City government building. Her project was a plain suggestion: when the government did not do a job, she would ask for it. This led to an idea that would go on to change not only New York, but the world.
Slowe envisioned a “city that belonged to everyone” where the poorest people had access to the most luxuries. Not only that, but the Rich and Poor would connect in a spirit of equality.
This of course could never happen. But Slowe didn’t give up. In “City of My Dreams,” she explained how the wealth and physical appearance of an apartment was ultimately determined by the level of political power in a neighborhood and what that wealth was spent on.
Later she proposed a novel solution for solving the problem of income inequality: distribute the City’s wealth equally.
Slowe was not alone in her ambitious ideas. In the late 1960s New York City became the second U.S. city to have an all-female police force.