Woman holding a guitar performs on stage

Music HerStory

Women and Music of Social Change

On View 1 West Smithsonian Libraries and Archives Gallery
Closes March 24, 2025

Women’s leadership in music and social change is central to the American story. From our earliest musical encounters to the formation of complex social identities, the American musical landscape would not be what it is today without the countless contributions of women changemakers, groundbreakers, and tradition-bearers. 

Music HerStory explores these contributions through unique media collections from the Smithsonian Libraries and Archives, the Center for Folklife and Culture Heritage, and around the Smithsonian. Notable women featured include Ella Jenkins, Sister Rosetta Thorpe, Lucy McKim Garrison, Queen Liliʻuokalani, and Dolly Parton.

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Photo: Sister Rosetta Tharpe performs at the 1967 Newport Folk Festival. Photo by Diana Jo Davies. Courtesy of Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections.