Give it Up for the Ladies at These Women’s History Museums
From Harriet Tubman to the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.
We believe it was noted scholar Beyoncé who asked, “Who run the world? Girls.” Women make up nearly 50 percent of the world’s population, yet we’re given just one measly month to celebrate our contributions to society. This month was hard won, too: What began as Women’s History Week in 1978 didn’t graduate to a full 31 days until 1987.
A womanless history is an inaccurate history, and Congress just passed a long-overdue bill to establish an official Women’s History Museum in Washington DC. Until then, there are several museums and sites across the country—like the gigantic field pruned to an uncanny portrait of Amelia Earhart—that pay homage to the trailblazers amongst us. As always in these times, before you visit double check the opening status and make an appointment when necessary.
Rochester, New York
Visiting Susan B. Anthony’s former home, pause for a moment in the front parlor: It was here that the activist was arrested for voting in 1872, before being tried and fined $100. Nearby you’ll find a cafe that marks the year—the 1872 Cafe—as well as the 1872 Monument, a bronze locked ballot box by sculptor Pepsy Kettavong, commemorating Anthony and the 14 other women whose vote brought national attention to the suffrage movement. Anthony’s grave in Rochester’s Mount Hope Cemetery was, until recently, a place for engaged citizens to put their “I voted” stickers after elections. (The practice was banned after the 2016 election because the paste was damaging the stone.)
Fort Worth, Texas
The West was not won by men alone. Since 1975 the over 200 inductees into the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame have included everyone from Sacagawea—who guided the Lewis and Clark expedition—to painter Georgia O’Keeffe to US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. More recent inductees include Lavonna “Shorty” Koger, one of the leading cowboy hatters, and country singer Miranda Lambert. Check out exhibitions like Hitting the Mark: Cowgirls and Wild West, which features a hologram Annie Oakley telling her story in own words and some of her personal effects, like a shotgun and a wedding ring. There’s also a Bucking Bronc Room to test your bronc riding skills. You'll be superimposed into rodeo footage, so it's a good time to break out the cowboy hat.
You can’t—and shouldn’t—miss it: the towering, stunning mural of the conductor of the Underground Railroad, arm outstretched to help you on your journey. Harriet Tubman not only routinely risked her life leading enslaved Americans to freedom, but was a spy during the Civil War, providing information to the Union Army. This Maryland museum is the oldest organization dedicated to preserving Tubman’s memory, running tours of nearby sites that were significant to her life in addition to museum exhibits, educational programming, and community outreach.
Founded over 30 years ago, the National Museum for Women in the Arts houses a small but evocative collection from female artists including Louise Bourgeois, Mary Cassatt, Judy Chicago, Shirin Neshat, and Amy Sherald. The museum is temporarily closed, but you can check out online exhibitions like Mamacita Linda: Letters between Frida Kahlo and her Mother, 1930–32, which explores the bond between the artist and her seldom-mentioned mother. Plus, browse their online collection, read artist bios, and look through high resolution works on Google Arts and Culture—like this delightful photograph by Angela Strassheim, which reiterates that we’re all just horse girls at heart.
Seneca Falls, New York
It was here in upstate New York that Elizabeth Cady Stanton organized the first women’s rights convention: a gathering of 300 women in 1848 which produced the Declaration of Sentiments (like the Declaration of Independence, but for ladies). At the Women’s Rights National Historical Park, you can visit Stanton’s former residence (which has a cool nickname, the “Center of the Rebellion”), the Wesleyan Chapel where the convention was held, and the M’Clintock House where the declaration was written. A visit should also include the National Women’s Hall of Fame, located on the first floor of the historic Seneca Knitting Mill.
The first woman to ever fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Amelia Earhart disappeared over the Pacific in 1937 while attempting to circumnavigate the world. Her death may still be a mystery, but we do know where the fearless aviator was born: Atchison, Kansas. Not only does the town throw an annual Amelia Earhart festival, it maintains this massive hillside earthworks portrait of the pioneer, made from vegetation and mosaic and viewable by platform. Nearby, the Amelia Earhart Hangar Museum holds Muriel, a 1935 Lockheed Electra 10-E airplane identical to the plane flown on her last journey. And the two-story house where she grew up is a museum run by the Ninety Nines, the women’s aviation organization Earhart helped form. You can check out the controversial Lucky Strike cigarette ad that ended up costing her some endorsements, because Amelia Earhart changes for no one.
Not to be confused with the forthcoming Smithsonian Women’s History Museum, the idea for the National Women’s History Museum’s history was sparked when its feisty founders, along with some bipartian congresswomen, fought to have the seven-ton marble statue of suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Lucretia Mott dragged up from the basement of Congress—or the “Crypt,” where it had been gathering dust since 1921—and displayed in the rotunda.
Now 25 years old, a physical presence is in the works, but there are plenty of online exhibits you can check out now, like the Women of NASA and A Century of Entrepreneurial Women. In February, the museum partnered to display a portrait of Kamala Harris by Simon Berger made with broken glass in the Lincoln Memorial. Why broken glass? Because she’s shattering the glass ceiling, baby.