National Museum of American History Marks 2020 as “Year of the Woman”
To mark the centennial of women’s suffrage, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will celebrate the “Year of the Woman” in 2020 with two signature exhibitions designed to amplify women’s crucial role in history. On March 6, the museum will open “Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage,” and “Girlhood (It’s Complicated)” will open June 12.
The exhibitions will be mounted as part of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative #BecauseOfHerStory. The initiative represents one of the country’s most ambitious efforts to collect, document, display and share the compelling story of women, deepening the understanding of women’s contributions to the nation and the world. It amplifies women’s voices to honor the past, inform the present and inspire the future. Information is available at https://womenshistory.si.edu.
The spotlight on women’s contributions will shine on other museum projects throughout 2020, including “Picturing Women Inventors,” a display celebrating the contributions of female inventors; “The Only One in the Room,” a showcase exploring women in business as part of the “American Enterprise” exhibition; and a focus on diverse female educators in the “Giving in America” exhibit. A variety of women’s history programs, and digital and education initiatives will expand this content.
The suffrage centennial exhibitions tie into other museum efforts under the tagline “Who Counts?” demonstrating that women’s history is political history. “Who Counts?” will link the museum’s efforts in collecting, documenting and creating civic engagement programs around the 2020 election, the census, the 15th Amendment and the 19th Amendment. The central messages of “Who Counts?” are broad and provide probing questions about the relationship between citizenship, resources and counting; how categories of belonging and exclusion are created and re-created over time; and how individuals and groups assert that they do count.
Exhibitions and Displays Opening in 2020
Using a jewel box approach, the museum will display a group of artifacts in conjunction with graphics and media, interweaving stories of the famous and the forgotten. The centerpiece of the exhibition will be a 6-foot-tall portrait of Susan B. Anthony. Painted by Sarah J. Eddy in 1900, the work depicts an idealized Anthony being presented with flowers by young boys and girls on her 80th birthday. The exhibition will also feature items donated between 1919 and 1920 by the National American Women’s Suffrage Association (now the League of Women Voters), materials related to Adelaide Johnson and Alice Paul, and contemporary items from the 2017 Women’s March as well as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s gavel.
“Who Pays for Education?”
Thematic Case in “Giving in America”
Opens March 18, 2020; closes TBD
Philanthropy to support education is the focus of the updated exhibition “Giving in America,” which looks at the historical role of philanthropy in shaping the United States. Since the nation’s beginning, Americans have grappled with who gets educated and who pays for education. The update will feature objects from women educators like Nannie Helen Burroughs, who founded the National Training School for Women and Girls in 1909 in Washington, D.C., and an Oklahoma teacher who made headlines for her roadside fundraising sign in 2017.
With a design inspired by zines, the 5,000-square-foot gallery will have 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 will feature custom murals and illustrations by artist Krystal Quiles. The exhibition will tour the country through the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service from 2023 through 2025.
Associated Exhibitions and Displays Currently on View
Throughout the year, the museum will present special programs, including “Women in Jazz” during April’s Jazz Appreciation Month. The museum’s robust theater program allows visitors to engage with a National Women’s Party suffragist as she gathers supporters (and convinces dissenters) of a woman’s equal right to vote as well as with the “wheelwoman.” The wheelwoman character engages visitors in the history of the Good Roads and Rational Dress movements, as well as how the bicycle helped shape the women’s liberation movement, women’s suffrage and better transportation. The museum’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation will bring Paralympic skier Sarah Will to its “Innovative Lives” program in May. For updated program listings, visit http://americanhistory.si.edu.
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research, and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th Streets, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. For more information, visit https://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000. Explore the museum’s social media on Twitter @amhistorymuseum, on Facebook at @National Museum of American History and on Instagram @amhistorymuseum.
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