Susan B. Anthony’s Shawl, around 1900
When Susan B. Anthony appeared in public to advocate for voting rights for women, she often wore this red silk shawl—her visual trademark.
Anthony’s father was a Quaker abolitionist. He encouraged his daughter’s education and instilled in her a keen sense of social justice. First active in the temperance movement, she became focused on women’s rights and led a nationwide campaign for a women’s suffrage amendment. This goal was ultimately achieved in 1920, fourteen years after Anthony’s death, a testament to her famous motto: Failure Is Impossible.
Susan B. Anthony’s Cup and Saucer, around 1845
As a young woman, Susan B. Anthony worked as a teacher to support her family. This china cup and saucer is from a tea set she purchased for her mother.
Patsy Cline’s Costume, around 1960
Made for country music star Patsy Cline by her mother, this Western-style performance outfit features record-shaped patches stitched with the titles of Cline’s singles.
Cline began singing with gospel and country bands as a teenager in Virginia. With her 1957 breakout hit “Walkin’ after Midnight,” she became the first female country vocalist to cross over to the pop charts. In 1960, Cline achieved her childhood dream of joining the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Three years later, she died in a plane crash.
Sandra Day O’Connor’s Robe, 1981
The first female justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, Sandra Day O’Connor, wore this black judicial robe to her swearing-in ceremony on September 25, 1981.
Nominated by President Ronald Reagan, O’Connor developed her legal expertise as an attorney, state senator, and judge in Arizona. As a moderate conservative on the divided Rehnquist Court, she frequently cast deciding votes on controversial issues such as abortion, affirmative action, and the separation of church and state. She retired in 2005.
Susan B. Anthony’s Gavel, 1888
Margaret Mead’s Field Dress, 1920s
Worn by anthropologist Margaret Mead in Papua New Guinea, this cotton print dress has an adjustable fit to accommodate weight loss in the field.
Mead’s extensive fieldwork in the South Pacific established her as an expert on cultural behavior. Believing anthropology could be a tool for positive social change, she became a celebrity, speaking out on issues such as women’s rights, the nuclear arms race, and the “generation gap,” a term she popularized.
Ed Roberts’s Wheelchair, around 1978
Equipped with a sports-car seat, go-cart wheels, and a top speed of eight miles an hour, this wheelchair belonged to disability-rights pioneer Ed Roberts.
Roberts was paralyzed by polio in 1953, at age fourteen. In 1962 he enrolled at the University of California at Berkeley, where he led efforts to establish a program for disabled students. He later founded the Independent Living Movement, a worldwide campaign to secure civil rights, equal access, and self-sufficiency for people with disabilities.