Alexandria – June 17
For more information, go to https://www.nwhm.org/support-nwhm/events/walking-tours
Alexandria – June 17
For more information, go to https://www.nwhm.org/support-nwhm/events/walking-tours
Washington, DC – The National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) applauds the decision by U.S. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to put abolitionist Harriet Tubman on the nation’s $20 bill. The move is a significant step in our nation’s recognition of women and their contribution to our nation. It is the first time in more than a century that a woman’s portrait will grace the nation’s currency.
“What a resounding and important message we have sent to our young girls and women in this country,” said NWHM President and CEO Joan Wages. “There have been many efforts to bring women’s history into our mainstream. This decision significantly raises the profile and the conversation about women’s impact on our country’s development.”
In marking the announcement, the NWHM, in partnership with the Google Cultural Institute, launched a new exhibit that details Tubman’s life and her work as the leader of the Underground Railroad. The exhibit provides a walk through locations and existing sites used on the historic route to freedom for slaves who Tubman helped escape.
To view the exhibit, visit https://www.google.com/culturalinstitute/exhibit/GwIC_10DOod5KA?position=1%3A0.
About the National Women’s History Museum
Founded in 1996, the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM, Inc.) is a nonpartisan, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to educating the general public about the diverse historic contributions of women and raising awareness about the critical need for a national women’s history museum in our nation’s capital. Currently located online at www.nwhm.org, the Museum’s goal is to build a world-class, permanent museum on or near the National Mall that will herald and display the collective history of American women. A Congressional Commission has been established that is charged with producing a feasible plan, which would include the governance, fundraising, location and organizational structure of the museum. For additional information visit NWHM.org or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
For press inquiries, please contact Melissa Williams, NWHM communications manager, firstname.lastname@example.org or 703-416-1920.
This Time Tomorrow: Women in Religious Reform Movements
Monday, April 18, 2016, 7pm
Panel Discussion with Asra Nomani, Rabbi Esther Lederman, Jeannette Mulherin & Elizabeth Maurer
Moderated by Maureen Fiedler, host of NPR’s Interfaith Voices
Presented in conjunction with I Am Anne Hutchinson/I Am Harvey Milk
Anne Hutchinson’s courageous resistance to male domination of religion in her Puritan world of the 1600s made her an icon of equality for all. Prior to Strathmore’s world premiere of I Am Anne Hutchinson/I Am Harvey Milk starring Kristin Chenoweth, join us for a conversation on the history and current state of reform movements in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity. Maureen Fiedler of NPR’s Interfaith Voices hosts this panel featuring former Wall Street Journal reporter and Georgetown University visiting scholar Asra Nomani, Rabbi Esther Lederman, and past president of the Women’s Ordination Conference Jeannette Mulherin.
Free; registration required. https://www.strathmore.org/events-and-tickets/this-time-tomorrow
These discussions are a part of a series of events leading up to our World Premiere production, I Am Anne Hutchinson/I Am Harvey Milk on April 23 & 24. Join the conversation online with the hashtag #IAm.
In the early 19th century, bright, educated women became active in various reform movements. The activists among them joined abolitionist societies and petitioned for woman suffrage. With the advent of the Civil War, a wider circle of women joined together to support the causes of soldiers and their families. They formed sewing circles, held fundraising fairs, and volunteered directly with causes. After the war, women seeking intellectual and social outlets continued to rapidly establish women’s clubs.
Clubs formed around many different issues from literary and musical societies, social reform movements, and beautification. In the years between the 1870s and 1920s, women’s clubs became the major vehicle by which American women could exercise their developing talents to shape the world beyond their homes. Clubs afforded not only social opportunity but also leadership. As clubs grew, and counted locally influential women among their rolls, clubs could effect change both nationally and locally. They rapidly became part of the growing Progressive Movement.
Forming garden clubs was a natural expression of interest in nature and beauty. Horticultural societies and botany groups, some dating back to colonial times, restricted women’s membership. In response women formed their own clubs within their own communities. The first garden club in America was founded in January 1891 as The Ladies Garden Club of Athens, Georgia. On May 1, 1929, 13 federated states became charter members of the National Garden Clubs at an organizational meeting in Washington, D.C. The Garden Club of America was founded in 1913.While many started with the goal of exchanging information and cuttings, they soon adopted larger missions, which indelibly shaped the American landscape.
The United States celebrated its centennial in 1876, and on the heels of the Civil War and Reconstruction, amid an influx of immigrants, and in the face of a growing women’s movement, many rallied around the centennial as a reaffirmation of classic American values and culture. Cities and towns planned elaborate celebrations and pageants. Groups formed to preserve historic houses and buildings associated with the Founding Fathers. Scores of historical societies were formed.
The garden club movement became closely affiliated with the historic preservation movement by adopting the restoration of historical landmarks gardens and grounds as projects. The Garden Club of Virginia was among the first and the most ambitious in undertaking restoration projects. Founded in 1920 by eight garden clubs from around the Commonwealth, the GCV’s first project was the restoration of the grounds at Kenmore, the home of George Washington’s sister Betty and her husband Fielding Lewis. The Garden Club of Virginia’s restoration, started in 1929, includes a large tree-shaded lawn and rear garden arranged in an eighteenth-century formal plan. The GCV’s members hired professional landscape designers and historical consultants to execute the projects.
The Garden Club of Virginia raised money through traditional women’s networks. They staged a large flower show in 1927, raising $7,000 towards the restoration of Thomas Jefferson’s gardens at Monticello. The GCV held the first Historic Garden Week of Virginia, featuring tours of prominent homes and gardens, in 1929. Today, GCV’s 8-day Historic Garden Week attracts 30,000 visitors to 250 homes across the state and has raised $17 million since its inception. The organization continues to fund conservation and restoration, including an effort to restore Monticello’s kitchen gardens.
The General Federation of Women’s Clubs (1890) encouraged women’s groups to join together to amplify their voices to improve local communities and effect national policy. Mary Belle King Sherman served as chairman of GFWC’s Conservation Committee from 1914-1920 where she positioned GFWC as a strong advocate of establishing a national park system. In 1915, she represented GFWC at the dedication of Rocky Mountain National Park near her home, and in 1916, she advocated for the GFWC resolution supporting the National Park Service Bill, leading to her nickname as the “National Park Lady”. By the end of her service as Conservation chairman, she had helped guide the formation of six national parks.
The National Roadside Council under Elizabeth Lawton emerged in the 1920s took on the Outdoor Advertising Council to combat the “roadside blight” that sprang up along with national road systems connected to rising use of the automobile. Lawton adamantly asserted that “beauty and the billboard cannot exist on the same landscape.” She built up a series of state and regional councils composed primarily of women who lobbied against the proliferation of billboards, much to the chagrin of the male-dominated Outdoor Advertising Association of America. She and her husband photographically documented the roadside landscape to demonstrate roadside blight and advocated for legislation to regulate advertising. A few decades later, Lady Bird Johnson took up their cause by lobbying for passage of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965.
Working together, women in garden clubs and beautification societies made an indelible mark on the American landscape. They looked beyond the envelope of historic buildings, recognizing that the historic landscapes, gardens, and view sheds were important resources to preserve for future generations. Their efforts led to more beautiful highways, increased recreational opportunities, and established conservation as a national priority. Their legacy endures in the public spaces all around us.
Beloved children’s book author Beverly Cleary will turn 100 years old on April 12, 2016. Starting with Henry Huggins in 1950 and her last book Ramona’s World in 1999, Cleary wrote more than 40 children’s books that have sold 91 million copies and remain at the top of teacher and librarians’ recommended reading lists.
Children in Cleary’s books are independent, enjoy being outside, and solve problems with the support of friends. They are realistic children who misbehave, get into trouble, and fight with their siblings. “I never reform anybody,” Cleary told The New York Post in 2006. “Because when I was growing up, I didn’t like to read about boys and girls who learned to be better boys and girls.” Today’s children are no different.
Beverly Cleary bucked the prevailing trends in children’s literature. What made her different?
Over the past 100 years, a trend in children’s literature has been to position adults as peripheral to children’s lives if not actively antagonistic. The Hardy Boys (1927) and Nancy Drew (1930) experience shockingly little adult supervision while repeatedly imperiling themselves. The Cat in the Hat (1957) wreaks havoc because the mother is away. Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (2008) finds the adults in her life literally trying to engineer her death.
Cleary’s characters, on the other hand, while independent, often interact with adults as she examines the relationships between adults and kids. Cleary received Newbery Honors for Ramona and Her Father (1978), which traversed the family’s challenges when Ramon’s father unexpectedly loses his job. In Ramona and Her Mother—the 1981 National Book Award winner for Children’s Fiction—a pre-adolescent Ramona worries about her parents’ unsettling quarrels and whether her mother has enough attention to go around. Cleary was awarded the Newbery Medal for outstanding children’s book in 1984 for her juvenile novel Dear Mr. Henshaw, in which a boy works through his parents’ divorce and adaptation to a new school through his correspondence with his favorite author. Though Cleary’s characters are independent, they are not left on their own. Caring adults populate their worlds.
In her youth, Cleary reminded the Washington Post, “mothers did not work outside the home; they worked on the inside. And because all the mothers were home — 99 percent of them, anyway — all mothers kept their eyes on all the children.” Yet Cleary herself was a working mother who balanced her writing career with raising a young family with the help of a neighbor who watched her children while she wrote. In that, she was typical of many women in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s who increasingly returned to part time work to supplement family income. Cleary explored the dynamics of families with wage-earning mothers in several books starting in the 1970s. Her writing mirrored her and her readers’ real lives, making her novels relatable.
Over a half century of writing, Cleary’s work reflected changes in American society. Her characters faced challenges that remain highly relevant today such as a parent losing a job, loss of a favorite pet, divorce, and school yard bullying. Her stories reflect the issues women faced in the decades in which they were published, creating a literary, historic timeline of the 20th century.
When asked why her work has remained popular, she told The Atlantic, “I think it is because I have stayed true to my own memories of childhood, which are not different in many ways from those of children today. Although their circumstances have changed, I don’t think children’s inner feelings have changed.”
By Elizabeth L. Maurer
Director of Program
By Susan Danish
Executive Director, Junior League
No, not there…
Here…look over here…
Where are the women leaders?
We’re here. We’re all around you. We’re just not household names. Nowhere was that more evident than at last week’s ‘Women Making History’ event supporting the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) and its goal of building a Museum on the National Mall in Washington, DC.
The three women honored were remarkable and it was eye-opening to be around them. They were women some “know”, but most do not know their names or their stories. First to be honored was Ann Veneman, the first (and only) female United States Secretary of Agriculture, and former Executive Director of UNICEF, among so many more accomplishments. Her resume is a litany of “first female…” I have never felt more like a slacker.
Aesha Ash was a professional ballerina with several world renowned companies including New York City Ballet. She was among the first African-American ballerinas there. (And she was there before Misty Copeland came to prominence with the American Ballet Theater.) Today she is retired from professional dancing but has started an initiative called the Swan Dreams Project to help ensure that all girls, especially girls of color, know that stereotypes or media images do not have to define them.
Finally, the Museum honored Christine Walevska, world renowned cellist and master musician. In an intimate setting at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington D.C., Walevska played three pieces for the attendees – and we were supposed to be honoring her! What an honor it was. And here she was just feet away from us, playing her cello, and sharing her thoughts. Even without the acoustics of a concert hall, she moved us with her artistry and connected with us in a warm and personal way. I spend time at Tanglewood every summer (the summer home of the Boston Symphony), and there are female cellists in the orchestra, but I have yet to see a cello soloist, with the exception of YoYo Ma (who is wonderful… don’t get me wrong). I never thought about the fact that never have I seen a female playing a cello solo there.
Seeing and learning about the Women Making History honorees only reinforced for me the need to tell the stories of the many, many accomplished women here in the US and around the world. I truly believe that the stories of strong, accomplished people can do a lot to counterbalance so much of the negative rhetoric that surrounds us daily. As National Women’s History Month comes to an end I feel an even greater sense of urgency to make sure that our nation’s heroines are not unsung.
This article was originally published in the Junior League blog, The Civic Lede. To view, click here: http://blog.ajli.org/women/2016/03/yoohoo-were-right-here/
Mary Elizabeth Walker, an 1855 graduate of Syracuse Medical College, was among nation’s few female medical doctors at the beginning of the Civil War. She recognized that the Army needed medical personnel and vigorously pursued a US Army commission. Though denied a commission, she volunteered in hospitals in Washington, DC and Virginia. Walker finally secured a contract position with the Ohio 52nd Infantry in 1863. Confederates captured Walker and made her a prisoner of war. Following her release in a prisoner exchange, Walker secured a contract position as an Acting Assistant Surgeon directly with the US Army where she was assigned to supervise female prisoners of war and an orphanage. Walker retired from military service at the war’s conclusion. She was awarded the Medal of Honor in recognition of her extraordinary service to her country. Dr. Walker remains the only woman in history to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor.
NWHM President & CEO Joan Wages was recently interviewed on the “How Do We Fix It?” podcast. The popular podcast, run by veteran journalists Richard Davies and Jim Meigs, invites innovative thinkers to discuss new research and fresh thinking around current topics. The podcast not only analyzes problems but also offers practical solutions.
Wages spoke about the absence of women in high level positions in Fortune 500 companies and public office and its correlation to a lack of role models in history books. She pointed out that fewer than 20% of the Members of Congress are women. Women’s representation in corporate boardrooms is even lower. Fewer than 5% of CEO’s at Fortune 500 companies are women.
“Role models have a huge impact on the way young girls and women in general think about themselves,” stated Wages. When fewer than 15% of figures in US history textbook are women, it is not surprising that women and girls hesitate to pursue traditionally male career fields.
Wages discussed NWHM’s efforts to incorporate women’s history into the popular historical narrative as well as its goal to build a national museum dedicated to women’s history, the first of its kind in any world capital.
Listen to “The Gender Gap in Our Public Square: Joan Wages: How Do We Fix It?” at http://bit.ly/HowDoWeFixIt
Students from across Northern Virginia gathered on Saturday, March 5, 2016 for the Region 5 Virginia History Competition. Students engaged in a year-long research project on the topic of “Exploration, Encounter, and Exchange in History.” They entered projects in a variety of categories including websites, exhibits, dramatic presentations, documentaries, and papers. The winners will progress to the Virginia State competition to be held in April.
In addition to awards by category and age group, four special awards were given by various organizations. National Women’s History Museum awarded two Certificates of Excellence for projects in women’s history to a middle and high school student. The women’s history category had the most number of entries for any of the special awards categories with 25 projects eligible for consideration.
The winners for Excellence in Women’s History were:
Laura Pavlak of West Springfield High School for her Senior Historical Paper “Gertrude Bell and the Birth of Iraq.”
Lydia Frazier of Mary G. Porter Traditional School for her Junior Individual Documentary “Isadora Duncan.”
On the day Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892, an Irish girl named Annie Moore became the very first person processed through what became the world-famous immigration center. After joining her parents in New York, Annie married Joseph Augustus Schayer, a young German American who worked at the Fulton Fish Market. She bore 11 children, six of whom died before adulthood; she died at age 50 in 1924. She never left New York’s Lower East Side, living the rest of her life in a few square blocks that is today remembered as a notorious immigrant slum. Though Annie would not be remembered if not for being a first, her story nonetheless offers insights into the American experience precisely because she was so very typical.
The Irish, before and after Annie Moore, had a tremendous impact on American history and culture. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that 36.9 million Americans claim Irish roots. The Irish are the second largest heritage reported by Americans after German. But the Irish were unique among all immigrant groups. In immigrating to the United States they accomplished something that no other group even attempted.
THE IRISH SENT MORE DAUGHTERS THAN SONS.
By the end of the nineteenth century, single women accounted for 53% of Irish immigrants. The Irish were the only nineteenth or twentieth century immigrant group in which women outnumbered men. Between 1820 and 1860, the Irish constituted over one third of all immigrants to the United States and by the 1840s—at the height of the Potato Famine—they comprised nearly half. After the crisis of the Famine passed and Irish emigration slowed, Irish women continued to migrate in increasing numbers.
Who were these women and why did they come?
Irish women moved to American for the same reasons as men: opportunity and freedom. Young Irish women and girls left behind hard scrabble farms where they worked as long and as hard as men to bring in a crop while also maintaining homes and assisting with children. The Potato Famine devastated the Irish economy. Poor Irish women had few employment opportunities and diminished marriage prospects. So they left Ireland for America.
When they left, they did not try to replicate their rural lives. Instead, they settled in cities where many took jobs as servants or domestic workers. More than 60% worked as maids, cooks, nannies, or housekeepers. Domestic work came with several advantages. Living with wealthy or middle class American families intimately exposed Irish women to American culture, speeding acculturation and assimilation. The greatest advantage was financial. Not only were the wages higher than those for factory workers, as live in help domestics had no housing expenses, which enabled them to save more money.
Women helped women
Strong female networks sustained the immigration flow of Irish women, even during times of economic depression. Women sent money back home to support families but they also paid the passage for their female relatives. Irish women were the only immigrant group to establish immigration chains. They brought over nieces, sisters, cousins, and friends. They were young, under age 24, and unmarried. These women had the freedom to migrate and the desire for independence. Whereas other ethnic groups sent their sons to America, Ireland sent its daughters.
In America, those daughters developed a reputation for independence. They became education advocates, civil rights leaders, and cultural critics. They changed America.
American Irish prioritized education. The Catholic Church in Ireland launched an education initiative in the late 19th century expanding access to educational opportunities. The Irish Catholic Church in American built on that teaching mission, establishing parochial schools throughout the country that educated generations of Irish Americans. And Irish-Catholic sisters founded scores of schools and women’s colleges. In 1900, Irish American girls attended school at higher rates than any other group, including American-born boys. Before coeducation in the 1960s opened American colleges to more women, more American women earned degrees from Catholic women’s colleges than from Protestant or nondenominational institutions. Education aided social and economic mobility for successive generations.
Education facilitated Irish American women’s entrance into the workforce. Second generation Irish women entered the professions at higher rates than any other immigrant group, becoming teachers, bookkeepers, typists, journalists, social workers, and nurses. By 1910 Irish American women represented the majority of public elementary school teachers in Providence, Boston, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. And by 1939, 70% of Chicago’s schoolteachers were Irish American women. Domestic work provided the first generation’s entry point into the American economy. But the second generation turned its back on servitude, preferring the relative autonomy and regular hours found in government and business.
Once in the workplace, Irish women demanded justice and equality. The second generation protested obvious discrimination and were among the first to organize and join labor unions. Though they were underrepresented among manufacturing workers, Irish American women were overrepresented among union leadership. Moreover, they introduced unions to service and professional fields. They organized teachers unions in order to eliminate male and female pay discrepancy.
Irish American women also made their mark through literature and journalism. Advanced education produced a generation of literary women, many of whom became professional journalists and novelists. Their subject matter often addressed women’s social inequities. Crusading journalist Elizabeth Cochrane, known by the pen name Nellie Bly, revealed abuse of the mentally ill in her newspaper expose “Ten Days in a Mad House”. Kate Chopin’s classic novel The Awakening criticized the stultifying confines of traditional American womanhood. Margaret Culkin Banning wrote over 400 articles for the leading women’s magazines of the day addressing taboo subjects like body image, alcoholism, and the difficulties of marriage. Their collective bodies of work demonstrate a commitment to fairness and social justice.
Irish women in America made an impact
The documentary evidence gathered from letters and journals suggests that Irish women found the adventure of their new lives in America as compelling as the economic opportunities. Living and working in the United States offered Irish women opportunities for autonomy and self-sufficiency lacking in the more patriarchal structure of “home”. Once in America, they firmly established themselves as a force with which to be reckoned. Their strong networks, formed by immigration patterns and sustained by shared membership in the Catholic Church, nurtured a culture and pride among Irish American women that continues to this day. During Irish American Heritage Month, let’s toast the strong and determined Irish women who became Americans.
Diner, Hasia R. 1993. Erin’s daughters in America: Irish immigrant women in the nineteenth century. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins university press.
Ebest, Sally Barr. “Irish American Women: Forgotten First-Wave Feminists.” Journal of Feminist Scholarship 56, no. 3 (Fall 2012). Accessed March 23, 2016. http://www.jfsonline.org/issue3/pdfs/ebest.pdf.
Graham, Ruth. “What American Nuns Built – The Boston Globe.” BostonGlobe.com. February 23, 2013. Accessed March 23, 2016. https://www.bostonglobe.com/ideas/2013/02/24/what-american-nuns-built-what-american-nuns-built/IvaMKcoK8a4jDb9lqiVOrI/story.html.
Nolan, Janet. 1986. Ourselves alone: female emigration from Ireland, 1885-1920.