Archive for May, 2012

Luella Bates

May 29th, 2012

We are pleased to present a blog post written by Ashley Hinshaw about her great-grandmother, a pioneer of trucking in the United States.  At the end of this post, please follow the link to a wonderful four-and-a-half minute video featuring Luella Bates by Heather T. Strong. ____________________________________________________________

As of one month ago, the name Luella Bates would have meant nothing to me, I knew zero about this woman who was my great-grandmother. I had heard no stories about her growing up; it was as if she simply did not exist in my mind. That all changed when I was contacted by Heather T. Strong, a Wisconsin truck driver who has dedicated the past year of her life to researching my great-grandmother and uncovering the truly inspiring and fascinating story of her years as one of America’s first female truck drivers.

During the difficult years of WWI, the Four Wheel Drive (FWD) factory in Clintonville, Wisconsin employed a number of women to fill the positions left empty by local men leaving for war. One of these women, Luella Bates, found her passion in test driving and demonstrating these trucks and quickly proved to be one of the best, if not THE best, at the job. Despite the equality challenges women faced at that time, FWD decided to put their faith in Luella and she became the face of the campaign to market and sell their trucks.

In a time when it was unusual for women to travel long distances for work, Luella thrived. She spent months on the road, holding demonstrations to display the new FWD trucks and their capabilities. Publications all over the US featured Luella in newspaper articles, praising her as the charming and charismatic truck driver that was more skilled than any man at the job. The New York Evening Post even printed a full-page story on her success.

As an actress, I am always on the search for a strong female role to take on, a woman who has a steadfast conviction in whatever she believes, and refuses to let opposition stop her. Luella represents the pinnacle of that for me. I am very excited to be in the process of developing a film that will bestow upon Luella’s memory the credit and appreciation she deserves. We mustn’t forget those women who have paved the way for where we are today, no matter how great or small their contribution was.

Luella Bates video

A Woman’s Place is in the Lab

May 22nd, 2012

What follows is a perfect example of the reason that the National Women’s History Museum needs to be built. Filmmakers Chris Brown and Christine Dennis both celebrated Brown’s trailblazing female scientist mother, Gail J. Brown and highlighted NWHM in a short video, A Woman’s Place is in the Lab. Click here to see it:

A Woman’s Place is in the Lab

For more information, read the article which follows. Read the rest of this entry »

A vote for women’s history

May 15th, 2012

Here’s a chance to make your vote count in favor of women’s history! The National Museum of American History is featuring the biographies of five prominent Americans on their blog O Say Can You See? in conjunction with an exhibit of digital composite portraits by photographer Robert Weingarten. They are then asking the public to vote for who will be on display in the Smithsonian this fall. The historic figures are:

Audie Murphy

Alice Paul

Celia Cruz

Samuel Morse

Frederick Douglass

We urge you to participate in this contest by voting for either of the two women in this group. The three men are certainly accomplished and worth commending. But the reality is, they have received far more public accolades then Alice Paul and Celia Cruz, like the majority of women in American history. Their accomplishments deserve to be publicly celebrated.

If you don’t know about Alice Paul or Celia Cruz, read more about them at:

For more information about Robert Weingarten and his work, click here:

Follow this link to vote through May 26th:

Thoughts for Mother’s Day

May 11th, 2012

Happy Mother’s Day to one and all! In celebration of the holiday, here is a collection of brief anecdotes (in our own words) about the amazing mothers, grandmothers and other influential women who have inspired the NWHM staff. We hope you enjoy them.


My mom’s mother, Sophia, came to the US around 1900 to escape the potato famine in Poland when she was just 16 and went to work in a cotton mill in a village in upstate NY called NY Mills. She met and married my grandfather there and they bought a house where I lived with my parents. We affectionately called her the shortened version of babushka, Baba, and she and Dziedzuwere also able to purchase a local tavern where I remember playing with my doll when the villagers would come in for the Friday fish fry as most were Catholic and did not eat meat back in those days. I remember Baba planting potatoes and vegetables and tending her flowers while I climbed the backyard tree or was on the swing. My mom and Baba carried on the Polish traditions, including cooking a meatless Christmas Eve dinner with borsch, pierogies and cabbage. After working as a secretary for many years, my mom is now 92 and I visited her and dad this Easter; I have been and am truly blessed to have been raised by these inspiring women. ____________________________________________________________ Read the rest of this entry »

Powerful Support from the Washington Post “She the People” Blog

May 11th, 2012

“If only it were possible this Mother’s Day …

I would thank Sojourner Truth and Harriett Tubman for their work in the anti-slavery and women’s rights movements of their time.

I would thank Susan B. Anthony and Victoria Woodhull for their dedication to women’s suffrage and strong opposition to violence against women.

I would thank Madam C.J. Walker for her work as a businesswoman, black hair care entrepreneur and philanthropist.”

To read the entire post, Click here.

Fantastic xoJane Article and Interview with Joan Wages

May 11th, 2012

“The Huffington Post swung a rusty hatchet at the National Women’s History Museum earlier this month, with a piece titled “National Women’s History Museum Makes Little Progress After 16 Years.” . . . But the critics have skimmed past (or outright ignored) many of the facts willingly provided by Joan Wages, who then rebounded from the hit-job with a thorough rebuttal on the Museum’s website.” To read the full article, Click here.

Dr. Sonya Michel to give lecture: “Doing Well by Doing Good: American Women’s Long Tradition of Reform”

May 9th, 2012

University of Maryland history professor, Dr. Sonya Michel, will give a talk exploring American women’s long tradition of reform on Wednesday, May 16 at 4pm at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. The lecture is part of the National Women’s History Museum’s joint lecture series with the Wilson Center entitled “The Past, Present and Future of US Women’s History.” The event is free and open to the public.

Long before American women had won suffrage or the right to run for public office, they found ways to make their voices heard in the public sphere by engaging in charity and good works. Through identifying problems in their society and creating institutions and policies to address them, women not only gained political power but helped build the foundations of the American welfare state. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, class divided many female reformers from the women and children they sought to help, but by the middle of the twentieth century, women of all classes were beginning to organize on their own behalf.  Sonya Michel will trace the long tradition of American women’s reform by drawing on the rich literature on this subject that several generations of women’s historians have produced, as well as her own research on American social policy.

The lecture will take place on Wednesday, May 16, 2012 from 4 to 5:30 pm on the 6th floor, Flom auditorium at the Wilson Center. It will be followed by a reception from 5:30-6. The Wilson Center is located at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20004. This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested. Please respond with acceptances only to

Directions to the Wilson Center are available at:

Previous lectures in the series are available at

Women Made Up 40% of Avengers Audience

May 8th, 2012

“The Avengers” opened this past weekend with a record breaking $200.3 million in box office sales in the United States and Canada. Much of this is due to the fact that Disney marketed directly to women. According to the Christian Science Monitor: “Disney’s aggressive marketing, which included promotions aimed at women that included sending stars to “The View” daytime talk show, resulted in women making up 40 percent of the audience for the action film, according to Disney’s survey. Half the audience was also over 25 years of age, the studio also said.”

This tactic is not new–in fact it has been around since the early 20th century. To read more about women’s integral part in the birth of cinema, particularly as audience members, read through NWHM’s “Women in Early Film” exhibit.

Pedaling the Path to Freedom: American Women on Bicycles

May 1st, 2012

It’s May and we all know what that means! Spring flowers, cherry blossoms, beautiful sunny days and of course, bikes! Yep that’s right, May is National Bicycle Month. Remember your very first bike? Perhaps it was shiny and red with bright tassels that hung from the handlebars? Or maybe it was a low-rider with a white basket in front that held all of your important kid knickknacks? Well, whatever the type, it’s time to break out your grown-up bikes and start pedaling!

So what do bikes have to do with women?  It turns out  that they had a revolutionary impact on the women’s movement of the early 20th century. Here are some interesting facts:

Photo: Courtesy of The Library of Congress

Fact #1: The origins of the bicycle are shrouded in mystery—it’s very difficult to attribute just one person to its invention. But on June 26, 1819, W. K. Clarkson, Jr. of New York received a patent for a velocipede (a human-powered land vehicle with one or more wheels), and beginning in the 1860s Americans, both men and women, began to show an interest in the contraption.

Fact #2:  Bicycles took American consumers by storm in the 1890s! Automobiles had barely begun, and until then, people largely depended on horses for transportation.  Horses and especially carriages were expensive, and women often had to depend on men to hitch them up for use.  In cities, horses usually were maintained in stables, and the cost was such that they were only available to the affluent.   There were trains between most cities by the 1890s, and the beginnings of electric streetcars within cities, but that system was slow, inefficient, and certainly much less personal than a bike. Bicycles burst onto the scene with promises of practicality and affordability. They were inexpensive and provided individual transportation for men and women for business, sports or recreation! Read the rest of this entry »

100th Anniversary of Girl Scouts!

May 1st, 2012

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts! Celebrate by volunteering for a day. You can find more information at