Mural showing young women taking various actions, such as reading, riding on a skateboard, and speaking through a bullhorn

Girlhood (It's complicated)

Closed January 2, 2023

The history of girlhood is not what people think; it is complicated. Young women are often told that girls are “made of sugar and spice and everything nice.” What we learn from the past is that girls are made of stronger stuff. They changed history. From Helen Keller to Naomi Wadler, girls have spoken up, challenged expectations, and been on the front lines of social change. Although definitions of girlhood have changed, what it means to grow up female in the United States has always been part of the American conversation.

With a design inspired by zines, the Girlhood exhibition featured five story sections: Education (Being Schooled), Wellness (Body Talk), Work (Hey, Where’s My Girlhood?), Fashion (Girl’s Remix), plus seven biographical interactives stories, A Girl’s Life. The design featured custom murals and illustrations by artist Krystal Quiles.

Exhibition Website

The exhibition's companion website (coming soon) features many of the objects and stories found in Girlhood, enhanced by unique video content and a selection of historical artifacts as high-resolution, narrated 3D scans.

Traveling Exhibition

From 2023 through 2025, the Girlhood exhibition will travel to a select number of museums around the country. Future venues include St. Paul, Minnesota. Visit the traveling exhibit site for schedules and more information.

Virtual Gallery Tour

Experience the Girlhood gallery virtually with a self-guided 360-degree interactive walkthrough or a narrated video tour.


Introduction to Girlhood (It's complicated)

Join museum director Dr. Anthea Hartig and exhibition curator Dr. Kathleen Franz for a four-minute preview of the exhibition.

Watch on Vimeo

This project received support from the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative.