Because of Her Story: Women’s History and the Public
Smithsonian National Museum of American History Tour
As a part of the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative and to celebrate the Centennial of the 19th Amendment, the National Museum of American History is launching two new exhibitions in 2020: Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage and Girlhood (It’s Complicated). At this exclusive event, participants will receive behind-the-scenes tours of both exhibitions led by Smithsonian curators who will explain the goals, design, and challenges of creating these innovative projects in the public history of American women.
Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage, opening March 2020, commemorates women’s achievements in winning suffrage and invites audiences to explore how we celebrate milestones, what we remember, what (and who) has been forgotten or silenced over time, and how those exclusions helped create the cracks and fissures in the movement that continue to impact women’s politics and activism. Items from the National American Women Suffrage Association (now the League of Women Voters) collection, donated in 1919 and 1920, are featured along with later donations of materials related to Adelaide Johnson (sculptor of Portrait Monument in the Capitol), Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party (NWP), and other suffrage and women’s activism collections.
Opening in June of 2020, Girlhood (It’s Complicated) is a signature exhibition of the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative. For decades, young women were told that girls were “made of sugar and spice and everything nice.” What we learn from history is that many girls were made of stronger stuff. They changed history. Through its rich collections and new acquisitions, Girlhood (It’s Complicated) explores how girls have been on the front lines of social and cultural change. The exhibition engages in timely conversations about youth movements and women’s history through unexpected stories of girlhood in the United States. With the design inspired by zines, the 5,000 square-foot gallery has five story sections: Education (Being Schooled), Wellness (Body Talk), Work (Hey, Where is My Girlhood?), Fashion (Girl’s Remix), as well as biographical interactives called “A Girl’s Life.” This tour offers participants a rare opportunity to preview a major exhibition before it opens to the public.
Following the tours, participants are encouraged to attend the “Because of Her Story: Women’s History and the Public” roundtable, moderated by Dr. Kathleen Franz, curator of Girlhood (It’s Complicated). The session, which is open to all, will feature Dr. Anthea Hartig, the first woman director the National Museum of American History; Dr. Linda Gordon, New York University; Dr. Catherine Ceniza Choy, UC Berkeley; Dr. Marcia Chatelain, Georgetown University; and Dr. Lisa Tetrault, Carnegie Mellon University. The panel will conclude with a special reception sponsored by the Women’s Research and Resource Center at Spelman College, the Department of History at Mount Holyoke College, and the Society for Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.