Archive for June, 2013

Historical Women Who Rocked: Jeannette Rankin

June 11th, 2013

Jeannette Rankin: suffragist, political leader and activist. June 11, 2013 marks Rankin’s 125th birthday. She was born in 1880 near Missoula, Montana, to schoolteacher Olive Pickering Rankin and Canadian immigrant carpenter, and rancher John Rankin.

Jeanette Rankin holds an esteemed place in United States history as the first woman elected to the House of Representatives and the only member of Congress to vote against two world wars. Rankin made a name for herself as a skilled lobbyist, organizer, politician, and pacifist. She fused her suffrage and pacifist leanings whiles organizing Washington’s suffrage campaign. As a lobbyist for NAWSA, Rankin organized and campaigned for woman suffrage in over fifteen states. Rankin successfully ran as Montana’s Republican candidate for the House of Representatives in 1917. She distinguished herself as a pacifist and a sponsor of protective legislation for women and children. She was the only congressperson to vote against the United States’ involvement in both World War I and World War II. Montanans were disillusioned with her pacifist stance and would not reelect her again until 1940. In the meantime Rankin worked for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the National Consumer’s League, and National Council for the Prevention of War. After World War II she continued her pacifist work and went to India to study Ghandi’s philosophies. She espoused antiwar sentiments again in the 1960s during the Vietnam War and made a final reemergence into national politics. Throughout her career Rankin compromised neither her belief in woman’s rights nor pacifism.

The Equal Pay Act of 1963 Turns 50 Years Old

June 10th, 2013

Fifty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy signed into law the Equal Pay Act of 1963. The law states no employer shall discriminate “between employees on the basis of sex by paying wages to employees in such establishment at a rate less than the rate at which he pays wages to employees of the opposite sex in such establishment for equal work on jobs the performance of which requires equal skill, effort, and responsibility, and which are performed under similar working conditions.”

When JFK signed the Equal Pay Act, women, on average, were earning 59 cents for every dollar men earned. Today, though, women still are making just 77 cents for every dollar earned by men for equal work. This disparity has led Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., to co-sponsor an update to the law, called the Paycheck Fairness Act, along with a number of other female senators.

“We believe this is an economic issue. It’s not only about women but the middle class, and if you’re not paying a woman dollar for dollar for the exact same work you’re not really tapping the full potential of the economy,” said Gillibrand on “CBS This Morning.” “And why wouldn’t you tap the full potential of 52 percent of the resources of the women of this country? “If you paid women for dollar for dollar, you could raise the GDP by up to 9 percent.”

On June 5, the Senate failed to secure the 60 votes needed to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Gillibrand believes that this setback was a result of politics.

#FoodieFriday: The Food Riot of 1917

June 7th, 2013

By: Sydnee C. Winston, Project Coordinator

On the morning of February 20, 1917, an army of some 400 angry mothers climbed the steps of New York City’s City Hall.  With babies hoisted on their hips, they moved with an urgency brought on by weeks of suffering.  “WE WANT FOOD FOR OUR CHILDREN!” they shouted out in English and Yiddish. Read the rest of this entry »

#ThrowbackThursday: Step Right Up, Step Right Up!

June 6th, 2013

by Elissa Blattman, Project Assistant

Drawing from 1890

It’s June!  You know what that means – summer, nice weather, and outdoor fun!  That thought, and the potential financial gains from getting customers to travel from near and far in the nice weather to see his shows, must have at least crossed P.T. Barnum’s mind when he decided June 2, 1835 would be a good date to kick off his very first circus tour of the United States.  The circus has long been a staple of American and European entertainment, but it also stands out as an early career opportunity for women (and people of color and people with disabilities or physical abnormalities) in the United States as well as a public example of women’s changing roles around the turn of the 20th century.  From bearded ladies to snake charmers to bareback riders to high fliers, the circus was one place where women could escape the social and moral norms of the Victorian era and earn a living doing it. Read the rest of this entry »

NWHM Ambassador Brianna Brown Plugs Museum on “Twin Cities Live” Segment

June 5th, 2013

Check out this interview with NWHM Ambassador and actress, Brianna Brown. She mentions her work with the Museum towards the end of the interview. Thanks Brianna!

NWHM and George Washington University Partner for New Lecture Series

June 4th, 2013

Joan Wages & Steven Knapp

By: Sydnee C. Winston, Project Coordinator

The National Women’s History Museum and the George Washington University have joined forces to present a new lecture series entitled Initiating Change/Adapting to Change. The series is slated to begin on October 2, 2013. A series of four lectures—two in the fall semester and two in the spring—will focus on topics like women effecting change, women in the military and women in entrepreneurship. Speakers will be leaders in their fields and will present both historical and contemporary perspectives.

The Memorandum of Understanding was signed on Thursday, May 30, 2013 by Museum President & CEO, Joan Wages and GWU President, Steven Knapp.

“We’re delighted to embark on this partnership with the National Women’s History Museum,” Dr. Knapp said. “The museum is a cultural institution devoted to an important subject area that is not only of great interest to our students, but also a focus of many of our departments and programs — from our Global Women’s Institute and Women’s Leadership Program to our women’s studies and history departments.”

In her remarks, Wages noted that “all of us here know the importance of history–it is empowering and offers us inspiration and confidence about our future. So it is all the more significant that women’s history is largely missing form K-12 textbooks and most museum exhibits. Less than 8% of the statues in our National Parks are of women and in our Nation’s Capitol Building, only 15 of the 217 statues are of women leaders.”

Bill Becker, Professor and Chair of GW’s History Department echoed Knapp’s comments.

“The partnership between GW and NWHM offers great opportunity to further the understanding of women’s history,” said Becker. “Two years ago, eleven members of the Department of History put together a concentration of courses focused on gender and women’s history. They joined together with colleagues in other parts of the University–the Global Women’s Initiative, the American Studies Department, and the Women’s Studies Program–to focus on common interests and concerns. Now GW’s partnership with NWHM brings together two audiences intensely interested in women’s history and issues.”

Stay tuned for more information about the lecture series.

National Women’s History Museum and The George Washington University Collaborate on Public Outreach Programs

June 3rd, 2013



Four-part academic lecture series entitled “Initiating Change/Adapting to Change” to begin Wednesday, October 2, 2013 on GW Foggy Bottom Campus

WASHINGTON, DC, Monday, June 3, 2013 –Joan Bradley Wages, President and CEO of The National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) and Steven Knapp, President of the George Washington University (GW), signed a memorandum of agreement Thursday, May 30, 2013 to collaborate on public programs that will engage the local community on topics of historical relevance to women.  The National Women’s History Museum and GW are excited about this new opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »

Historical Women Who Rocked: Mary Pickford

June 3rd, 2013

Long before Jennifer Aniston burst onto the scene in the 1990s as Hollywood’s favorite “it” girl, America had another sweetheart: Mary Pickford. With her lush blond curls and sweet smile, she captivated the hearts of many American moviegoers with her convincing portrayals of innocence on the silver screen.

Mary Pickford was born Gladys Smith in 1892, in Toronto, Canada.  After the death of her father, Pickford became an actress at age six to help support her family while her mother took in boarders and sewing work.  Over the next nine years, Pickford acted in vaudeville sketches, melodramas, and road show productions throughout the United States, escorted by her family.  Through her own ambition and hard work, in 1907, at the age of fifteen, Pickford impressed one of Broadway’s most famous producers, David Belasco, and acted in his play The Warrens of Virginia.  It was Belasco who suggested she change her name from Gladys Smith to Mary Pickford.

Read the rest of this entry »