Girlhood (It’s complicated)

Illustration depicting girls from different eras

Girlhood (It’s complicated) commemorates the anniversary of woman suffrage by exploring the concept of girlhood in the United States, but also how girls changed history in five areas: politics, education, work, health, and fashion. We argue that girlhood has an unexpected and complicated history and that girls, like suffragists, used their voices to make a difference.

This exhibition website has six main sections:

News and Politics

Girls make history. Now, and in the past, girls show us that politics runs much deeper than being a Democrat or a Republican.


In school, girls are taught to fit in.


Not all girls had a childhood because they had to work.


Americans talk about girls' bodies a lot. Why? Because girls' bodies are often treated like community property.


Girls made fashion their own, and they made it speak.

A Girl's Life

Each story in this series offers a window into a girl's life and how she made history.

Enjoy the opening animation from the Girlhood (It's complicated) exhibition gallery (no sound).

The exhibition will tour the country through the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service from 2023 through 2025.

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

American Women's History Initiative