Archive for the ‘All News’ Category

Getting into the Games: Olympic Women

August 8th, 2016

Team USA’s 2016 Rio Summer Olympic roster includes 292 women among its 555 members, the largest number to have ever competed for any country. This is a tremendous evolution from the very first modern Olympics in 1896, which excluded women. The Olympics’ founding organizer, Pierre de Frédy, Baron de Coubertin, envisioned a festival celebrating men’s sporting achievements. Popular culture promoted sports competitions as an outlet for men’s aggression that also encouraged moral fortitude. Because women were supposed to be neither aggressive nor competitive, Coubertin and his fellow organizers intended that women’s Olympic participation be limited to spectator.

Coubertin quote


Women Enter Olympic Competition

While women missed the first games in 1896, they appeared in the second and third. The 1900 Olympic games were held concurrently with the Paris World’s Fair. While women were not specifically included, they were not explicitly excluded. Seven American women competed in tennis and golf. Margaret Abbott won the women’s golf contest, becoming the first American woman to win first place in an Olympic event.

The third Olympics was held in St. Louis in 1904, also during a World’s Fair. The United States provided the vast majority of athletes. Six American women—the only female athletes to attend—competed in archery, the only event open to women. Medals were first awarded in 1904, and Lida Scott Howell won three gold.


Making it Official

The London games in 1908 were the first to officially sanction women’s participation. National sports governing bodies and federations sanction athletic competitions and select Olympic national teams. While the American Olympic Committee refused to send women athletes in 1908, European women competed in tennis, archery, and figure skating.

The International Swimming Federation (ISF) first sanctioned women’s competitive swimming events in 1910, opening the door to women’s participation at the 1912 Stockholm games. America’s female swimmers did not compete in Stockholm because their sports governing body, the American Athletic Union (AAU), did not sanction women’s competitive swimming until 1914. No U.S. women competed at the 1912 games.

The 1916 games were cancelled during World War I making the 1920 games in Belgium the first to host American women since 1904. American women competed in swimming, diving, and figure skating. Aileen Riggin, the youngest athlete on the U.S. team at age 14, won a gold medal in diving. Ethelda Bleibtrey became the first American woman to win an Olympic swimming title.


Competitive Women Meet Resistance

Women’s athletics enjoyed immense popularity in the U.S. during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. By 1920, 22% of colleges and universities offered women’s athletic programs, and secondary school physical education was compulsory in nearly every state. A growing number of club teams and company-sponsored teams widened women’s sports opportunities.

As women’s competitive opportunities expanded, women athletes met an unanticipated source of resistance. In 1922 the National Women’s Track Athletic Association petitioned the AAU to sanction women’s events. The AAU voted to become the governing body for women’s track and field; however, the women who ran girls and women’s physical education programs in schools and colleges strongly protested.

Women physical education teachers, who predominantly taught girls and women, deeply objected to women’s competitive sports. Their philosophy of women’s athletics emphasized physical fitness and mass participation. Competition, they argued, was counterproductive. It funneled resources to a small number of elite athletes at the expense of scores of girls and women who would reap health benefits from participation. Moreover, competition made games less fun, discouraging girls. Starting in the 1930s, women’s competitive sports were gradually all but eliminated at the collegiate level to be replaced with game days and exercise classes.


Falling Behind in the Medal Count

The dearth of women’s collegiate athletic programs narrowed the U.S. Olympic team’s pool of potential athletes even as the IOC increased the number of women’s sports. Women turned to club and company-sponsored teams as outlets. However, the lack of access to skilled coaching and higher level training adversely affected women’s results in international competitions, including the Olympics.

TSU sidebar

Sports governing bodies grew increasingly concerned through the 1950s, 60s, and 70s over U.S. women’s weak showing against Eastern bloc countries. The Olympics had become a Cold War battlefield, and the East was winning. While Eastern bloc countries doped athletes to improve conditioning, they also created state-run training programs designed to produce winners. U.S. women, lacking an organized system of training and support, were simply out-matched in many events.


Title IX Evens the Playing Field

The year 1972 marked a turning point in women’s athletics. Title IX mandated that girls have equal opportunity as boys for sports participation. It immediately expanded the number of competitive slots for girls and women, facilitating their development into elite athletes. Before Title IX, fewer than 30,000 women were collegiate athletes, rising to 190,000 in 2012. Many of them, like star soccer forward Abby Wambach (University of Florida) and swimmer Natalie Coughlin (University of California, Berkeley), distinguished themselves and their alma maters in international competition.

Female Olympic athletes continue to make strides. The 2012 U.S. team in London was the first to include more women than men. U.S. women brought home 58 medals, to the men’s 45. Getting in the game is the first step to winning.

US Summer Graph with Boarder


Interested in learning more? Visit the Olympic Timeline.


Elizabeth L. Maurer
Director of Program


Recommended Readings

  • Barra, Allen. “Before and After Title IX: Women in Sports.” Accessed August 4, 2016.
  • Fuller, Linda K. (1987). Olympics access for women: athletes, organizers and sport journalists. In, Jackson, R. and T. McPhail, (Eds.), The Olympic movement and the mass media: past, present and future issues, Calgary: Hurford Enterprises, 4/9 – 4/18
  • “Olympic Games |” Accessed August 5, 2016.
  • Smith, Lissa. Nike Is a Goddess: The History of Women in Sports. Atlantic Monthly Press, 1999.
  • Waldron, Travis. “Title IX And The Success Of Women At The Olympics.” ThinkProgress, August 10, 2012.
  • Woolum, Janet. Outstanding Women Athletes: Who They Are and How They Influenced Sports in America. Greenwood Publishing Group, 1998.

Background & Fight for Title IX

August 4th, 2016

A Heritage of Mixed Messages: Women’s Sports History

August 4th, 2016

By Bonnie Morris, Ph.D.

Reprinted from A Different Point of View Winter 2012

Nineteenth century America idealized white woman’s modesty, frowning on sports as a threat to elite females’ fertility. This double standard persisted long after slavery was abolished: elite women did not exert themselves; their [female] servants did. Yet there were few sporting outlets for poor women who had athletic gifts and aspirations. Instead, the elite women’s colleges and the country clubs associated with the wealth and leisure of the Gilded Age made certain sports acceptable for aristocratic ladies: tennis, croquet, archery, and bathing-beauty swimming at racially restricted lakes or beaches.

In Coming on Strong, historian Susan Cahn notes that these endeavors were also more socially acceptable because they required elaborate outfits, stamping an assurance of femininity onto competitors in costume. Healthful beauty, not aggression or the personal/political desire to triumph over competitors, remained the watchword for active women–with the interesting exception of field hockey, an often bruising sport legitimized as girlish because of its association with boarding schools for daughters of the elite.

Morris_Bonnie_Tennis Players_first photo

The Scientific Reason

Medical authorities dating back to Aristotle declared that women were basically ruled by their reproductive systems, with a limited amount of “energy” flowing through the body that monthly hormonal expenditure used up in dangerous quantities to begin with. Too much study or, heaven forbid, bicycle riding and other unladylike sports would render nice women infertile; nineteenth-century campaigns against higher education for women sounded very much like campaigns to prevent women from taking part in active sports.

Anti-college campaigns also had clear racial and class overtones: women who graduated from the Seven Sisters colleges were indeed less likely to reproduce, but this had more to do with the lure of professional service careers [such as teaching and nursing] which required women to remain unmarried. Still, the popular connection between higher education and spinsterhood led to notions that learning, like sport, “desexed” women; even President Theodore Roosevelt [not incidentally an advocate of sports and warfare-based manliness] believed that America’s oldest white families were conspiring to commit “race suicide” by sending their next generation of daughters to college.

As nineteenth-century America honed white masculinity through warfare and capitalism, baseball and basketball, it also restricted women’s competition in public spheres of sports and politics by retaining inconsistent ideals about females’ innate ability to endure pain, injury, and manual labor. In textile mills and factories, women and children worked unregulated hours in life-threatening conditions; the sacred role of “mother” was violated every time a female slave suffered the sale of her children for someone else’s profit; in 1885 the “age of consent” for a girl child to be pushed into sexual union with an adult male was ten years old in 36 states, and seven years old in Delaware.[1] It was legally permissible for any man to beat his wife and kids. Clearly, socially sanctioned ideals of protecting women and children from harm have always had some gaps.


Tough Women

Most women had to be tough to survive–to survive as mothers, child brides, farm wives, sharecroppers, factory girls, millhands, pioneers. But where physical endurance was a highly sought-after quality in farmwives, strength on the home front was separate from an athletic identity. No one denied the muscular effort involved in carrying a child and giving birth; it was public athletic performance by women and girls that was condemned as immodest, selfish, and attention-seeking, the trinity of bad-girl behaviors. And athletic risks undertaken in prime childbearing years were seen as foolhardy.

Morris_Bonnie_ Virginia Smoot tagged out at third by Mabel Harvey during the ball game_second photo

Physical stress was common for rural homemakers who ran a household or family farm with few labor-saving devices or hired hands. Their daily workload rivaled the bricklaying or haybaling assigned to the strongest men; but rural and small-town wives rarely had their femininity impugned, as long as their “athletic” chores entailed proper domestic duties: scrubbing floors, wringing laundry, ironing, lifting children, tending animals, hauling water, gardening, canning, even splitting wood and dressing freshly slaughtered game. From this Midwestern demographic of bulging female arm muscles came the first female softball players and, ultimately, the All-American Girls Baseball League of World War II. Our collective national memory is slowly erasing images of those American women, black and white, who grew up farming or going out to work at age six. (My grandmother Mia could split an apple in two with her bare hands, a casual act of kitchen athletic power that delighted me as a kid.)


First Female Athletes

Who were the first female athletes embraced by Americans? What allowed them to break through restrictive cautions and conditions? When the modern Olympics were brought back in 1896, women were not allowed to compete until 1920 [with a special "Women's Olympics" convening in 1922 and well into the 1930s.]

Scholar Susan Cahn suggests that country club sports like tennis and swimming, with their leisure-class and feminine-fashion associations, allowed white heroines like Helen Wills and Gertrude Ederle to capitalize on the flapper era’s love affair with sophisticated outdoorswomen: “They helped fashion a new ideal of womanhood by modeling an athletic, energetic femininity with an undertone of explicit, joyful sexuality.”[2]

With American racism at extraordinary levels–despite the Harlem Renaissance, the 1920s saw the century’s highest levels of Ku Klux Klan membership, with ongoing lynchings–few if any tennis courts or park pools were open to black athletes, male or female. Thus as white swimmers brought home Olympic gold, and white tennis beauty queens made headlines, African-American “race girls” brought pride to their own communities by defeating white teams at track and basketball meets. This pattern of white celebrity athletes vs. grassroots local heroines heralded only by their own [minority] communities remained in place for decades, further obscuring how many women and girls were, in fact, committed to sports.


Morris_Bonnie_Wilma Rudolph_third photo

The association of sport with “rough” girls also continued through the Depression and the 1940s, due to industrial factory softball leagues and the segregated track world of black female athletes. But after the U.S. entry into World War II, gender codes changed to permit and reward muscular competence in war factories’ “Rosie the Riveter” workers (and WAC recruits.) Wartime America embraced an unlikely symbol of victory: the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League.

Though all-white, and requiring strict obedience to absurd standards of femininity in dress, curfews and hairstyles, the League is now praised as radical for its day. Penny Marshall’s 1992 blockbuster “A League of Their Own” and Janis Taylor’s less famous but more authentic documentary “When Diamonds Were A Girl’s Best Friend” make plain the League’s selling point, conceived by Chicago Cubs owner Philip K. Wrigley–that his “girls” would play like men but look like ladies. The contrast, and the presentation of strong-armed women as a wartime emergency resource not unlike the Navy’s WAVES, made escapist entertainment profitable. Since the League continued until 1954–an eleven-year run–it would be inaccurate to say it ended soon after the men returned from war and women were urged out of factories and ballparks and back to the home. But that social shift certainly influenced the League’s postwar wane, along with other factors such as boys-only Little League, the advent of television, and Cold War dramatization of American femininity vs. Soviet women’s mannishness in the 1950s Olympics.

I regularly bring in my parents’ high school yearbooks from Fairfax and Los Angeles High of the mid-1950s; while my parents’ soon-to-be celebrity classmates Dustin Hoffman and Jack Kemp were lettering in track and football, respectively, girls had exactly two choices: join the Neptunettes [be like Esther Williams!] or the Bowlerinas [and meet boys at the malt shop later!]. Most importantly, the 1950s introduced television, which would soon broadcast ballgames, sports-themed commercials, and images of a race and gender-stratified America no patriot of the McCarthy era was supposed to question. Television made possible a national rejoicing in U.S. sports heroes once only glimpsed in movie shorts (or at actual games).

This rapid-fire social history of attitudes towards women’s domestic duties and reproductive health in the years before Title IX are a must for my students–many of whom had no idea that, for instance, ballparks and beaches–the very waves of America’s oceanfronts–were off-limits to black men and women, or that as late as 1967 Boston Marathon officials could declare all women physiologically incapable of running 26 miles. What I teach in my sports history class is how national history shapes physical standards for us all.

In such countless ways, America wasted its real athletic potential. And then, in 1972, buoyed by the successes of the civil rights and feminist movements and political mandates to end segregation, women stepped up to the plate. And Title IX became law.

I am delighted to offer this sample mini-lecture from my women’s sports history class, which I’ve taught every year at both Georgetown and George Washington University since 1996.


Dr. Morris has written 13 books on a variety of women’s history topics, more information about her and her work can be found here:

If you enjoyed this piece, sign up as an NWHM Charter Member. Historical and contemporary perspectives on women’s history are offered in each issue of our magazine, A Different Point of View. Learn more.


[1] Mary Odem, Delinquent Daughters. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995; pp. 13-16.

[2] Cahn, Coming on Strong, p. 47.

Making a Political Party: The History of Women in the Democratic Party

July 25th, 2016

The Democratic party dominated US politics in the first half of the 19th century, winning all but two of the presidential elections between 1828 and 1856. At mid-century, the issue of slavery and its expansion into new territories fractured the party. It opened the door to the newly established Republican party and Abraham Lincoln’s 1860 election win. It would be seventy years before the Democrats regained dominance. They did so with the help of women.

Party Dominates Politics Until Civil War

The Republican party emerged as the Civil War’s political victor. While Democrats and Republicans traded Congressional majorities for the remainder of the 19th century, the White House proved elusive to Democrats. Democrats formed women’s groups during election years but dissolved them between election cycles, in contrast to Republican women who established on-going, active clubs starting in the 1880s. The socially conservative Democratic party expressed wary discomfort with women’s on-going engagement in public, political activities.

After the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, both parties developed strategies to mobilize women voters. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) recruited Emily Newell Blair in 1922 to organize a Women’s Division. Blair re-activated the moribund network of Democratic women’s clubs across the country, reconstituting them as political education forums. She organized speaker’s bureaus, produced a newsletter, and mailed a million educational leaflets. Blair reported organizing 1,000 local women’s Democratic clubs before the 1924 presidential election, bringing thousands of women into the party.

Emily Newell Blair - Library of Congress

In spite of Blair’s efforts, presidential candidate John W. Davis was overwhelmingly defeated by Republican Calvin Coolidge in 1924. The DNC suspended its national operations following the devastating returns. Blair transferred her operations to the private Woman’s National Democratic Club (WNDC), along with the DNC’s physical records, which the party could no longer store after giving up its headquarters. For the next four years, the DNC relied on the WNDC for organizational support.


Resurrecting the Party

The Democrat’s 1928 presidential candidate, Al Smith, also lost to his Republican rival—Herbert Hoover. However, Smith’s savvy appointment of John J. Raskob as the new DNC chair proved key to reversing the party’s fortunes. Raskob, a brilliant fundraiser, not only retired over a million dollars in campaign debt, he also reconstituted the DNC’s professional organization. He revived the Women’s Division, hiring Nellie Tayloe Ross—the country’s first female state governor—as director. Sue White replaced Ross in 1930. Working in tandem with the WNDC, White developed a national outreach program. Before the June 1932 national convention, the network contacted women in 2,600 of 3,000 US counties including all the counties in 22 states. Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Hoover in 1932, securing the presidency with 57% of the popular vote and sweeping in Senate and House majorities.

Roosevelt recognized the Women’s Division’s pivotal role in his success and made it a permanent department in the DNC. He appointed Mary “Molly” Dewson as its new head. Dewson was a New York political ally as well as a close associate of Eleanor Roosevelt. Mrs. Roosevelt had recruited Dewson to work on FDR’s 1930 gubernatorial and 1932 presidential campaigns and knew her to be a supreme organizer.

Molly Dewson quote

Bringing in the Women

Dewson reached outside the party structure to build support among traditionally unaffiliated voters, including women. Saying “elections are won between campaigns,” Dewson developed a voter education program aimed at women. She urged local women’s clubs to appoint members as Reporters to keep abreast of New Deal programs and explain their impact at club meetings. In this way, she by-passed news organizations, many of which were critical of the New Deal, and ensured that people at the grassroots level would be informed of the benefits and impacts of government programs. By 1940, the program involved more than 30,000 women.

Dewson also focused on recognizing and rewarding loyal women party members. She capitalized on her relationships with both Roosevelts to establish a pipeline of women to appointed government positions. Dewson lobbied Roosevelt to appoint Frances Perkins as the first female cabinet secretary, heading up the Department of Labor. Dewson also secured appointments for the first female judge on the US Court of Appeals (Florence Allen, Sixth Circuit); first female Assistant Secretary of the Treasury (Marion Glass Banister); and the first woman Director of the US Mint (Nellie Tayloe Ross). Dewson herself was appointed to the Social Security Administration in 1937. Dewson did not neglect the party’s grassroots. She successfully secured new party rules requiring equal representation of men and women in leadership roles throughout the DNC.

Democratic women

A New Party for a New Era

Dewson’s efforts to bring women into the Democratic Party and reward their contributions paid off. During the 1936 election, more than 80,000 women canvassed door to door for Democratic candidates and distributed 83 million fliers. Sixty percent of the electorate voted for Roosevelt, the largest margin of victory since 1820. The army of women Dewson and her predecessors brought into the party helped to maintain Democratic control through five presidential elections.

The Democratic party transformed itself in the 1920s and 1930s. Women were key. The 19th-century party staunchly adhered to limited government. During the Depression, the party—with the assistance of Democratic women—redefined the relationship of government to the people, encouraging a more activist position. They transformed government into an instrument of change. While the extent of government’s role in enacting social and welfare policies continues to be debated, the belief that government has a role is settled.



Elizabeth L. Maurer
Director of Program


Visit NWHM’s on-line exhibit “First But Not the Last: Women Who Ran for President”


 Read about Republican women here.



Suggested Readings


Encyclopædia Britannica Online, s. v. “Democratic Party”, accessed July 18, 2016,

Freeman, Jo. 2002. A room at a time: how women entered party politics. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield.

Gerring, John. A Chapter in the History of American Party Ideology: The Nineteenth-Century Democratic Party (1828-1892). Polity, Vol. 26, No. 4 (Summer, 1994), pp. 729-168.

Krook, Mona Lena, and Sarah Childs. 2010. Women, gender, and politics: a reader. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Leuchtenburg, William E. 1995. The FDR years: on Roosevelt and his legacy. New York: Columbia University Press.

O’Dea, Suzanne. 1999. From suffrage to the Senate: an encyclopedia of American women in politics. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.

Ware, Susan. 1981. Beyond suffrage, women in the New Deal. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press.

Women of the Grand Old Party: A History of Republican Women

July 18th, 2016

Though 19th-century women could not vote, they could and did align with political parties and ideologies. Average citizens demonstrated their partisan loyalties at rallies and public celebrations. And, this included women. The parties actively encouraged women’s personal allegiance. Being barred from political activity did not deter women’s political inclinations.

Founding the GOP

On March 20, 1854 “50 men, 3 women, and 1 child” met in a small, frame schoolhouse in Ripon, Wisconsin to discuss the creation of a new political party. A party to stand firm against the spread of slavery into the new western territories. They chose the name “Republican.”

Republican School House


Newspaper editor Horace Greely embraced the name as appropriate for “those who had united to restore the Union to its true mission of champion and promulgator of Liberty rather than propagandist of slavery.” Within six short years, the Republican party had achieved national status by electing its first president, Abraham Lincoln.


Party of Social Reform Attracts Women Activists

True to its antislavery foundation, the Republican party established itself as the national party of reform. Its antislavery stance attracted activist women to the party before the Civil War. Moreover, the party supported woman suffrage, endearing itself to reformers like Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucy Stone, who self-identified as Republicans.

Acknowledgment of women in the party’s platforms in the 1870s and the creation of a Republican women’s auxiliary in the late 1880s kept women in the Republican fold after slavery ceased to be a political issue. Judith Ellen Foster founded the Woman’s National Republican Association in 1888, declaring that “woman is politics.” She challenged women to engage in partisan politics in order to reform society, which was a woman’s role. She built the WNRA into a substantial unit of the Republican party, and its members advocated for Republican candidates each election cycle.


Judith Ellen Foster quote


Elects First Female Congresswoman in 1916

The first woman elected to federal office represented the Republican party. Montana voters elected Jeanette Rankin in 1916 as one of their first two members of the U.S. House of Representatives. They sent her four years before the 19th Amendment granted voting rights to U.S. women.

“I may be the first woman member of Congress,” she observed upon her election in 1916. “But I won’t be the last.” Rankin shepherded the woman suffrage amendment through Congress and rejoiced at its passage.

The Republican National Committee’s (RNC) Executive Committee formed a women’s advisory committee in 1918. The Committee was charged with advising the Republican National Committee on women’s issues. Anticipating that the 19th amendment would pass before the November 1920 national elections, the RNC was particularly interested in recommendations for party reforms that would solidify the Republican party as the home for the newly enfranchised female electorate. Women were invited to full RNC membership in 1924. That year 120 women sat as delegates at the Republican Convention, accounting for 11% of the total.


Republican Womens Committee 1920


First Major Party to Consider Nominating a Woman for President of the United States … 1964

Perhaps it is not surprising, given its long history with women, that the first woman whose name was placed into nomination by a major party for the presidency was Republican Margaret Chase Smith. Chase Smith represented the state of Maine in Congress for 34 years, first in the House of Representatives and later in the Senate. She was the first woman elected to the Senate in her own right. Chase Smith brought 27 delegates to the 1964 Republican convention. President John F. Kennedy said of her in 1963, “I would think if I were a Republican candidate, I would not look forward to campaigning against Margaret Chase Smith in New Hampshire, or as a possible candidate for President. … She is a very formidable political figure.”


Carrying on Traditions

Republican women have carried on the tradition of public service to the present. Three Republican women followed in Chase Smith’s footsteps by running for president. Elizabeth Hanford Dole ran in 1998. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota)—the first woman to win the Iowa straw poll—in 2011. And Carly Fiorina entered a crowded Republican primary race for the 2016 election. Twenty-two Republican women served in the U.S. House of Representatives and six in the Senate in the 114th Congress. Three women serve as state governors in 2016. Today’s Republican women stand on the shoulders of 164 years of GOP political women.


Elizabeth L. Maurer
Director of Program


Visit NWHM’s on-line exhibit “First But Not the Last: Women Who Ran for President”


Return to this page the week of July 25, 2016 to learn about Democratic women.



Further Reading:

Congressional Record, V. 150, Pt. 3, February 26, 2004 to March 10, 2004. Government Printing Office

“CAWP | Center for American Women and Politics.” CAWP | Center for American Women and Politics. Accessed July 13, 2016.

“Women in Politics.” by Mrs. Judith Ellen Horton Foster (1840-1910). Eagle, Mary Kavanaugh Oldham, ed. The Congress of Women: Held in the Woman’s Building, World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, U. S. A., 1893. Chicago, Ill: Monarch Book Company, 1894. pp. 668-669. Accessed July 13, 2016

Freeman, Jo. 2002. A room at a time: how women entered party politics. Lanham, Md: Rowman & Littlefield.

Gustafson, Melanie Susan. 2001. Women and the republican party, 1854-1924. Urbana, Ill: University of Illinois Press.

Harvey, Anna L. 1998. Votes without leverage: women in American electoral politics, 1920-1970. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Rymph, Catherine E. 2006. Republican women: feminism and conservatism from suffrage through the rise of the new right. Chapel Hill: Univ. of North Carolina Press.

“The Origins of the Republican Party.” Accessed July 13, 2016.



Google Cultural Institute Highlights NWHM in American Democracy Blog

July 14th, 2016

As part of its promotion of its newest themed launch by the Google Cultural Institute, the National Women’s History Museum was highlighted for its exhibits on women presidential candidates and the role of women in the civil rights movement. Google Arts & Culture premiered a collection of artifacts and images that tell the story of U.S. democracy in a variety of ways. The launch was timed to the Democratic and Republican party conventions that will take place in July. To read more about the collection, click here. Click here to read more:

National Women’s History Museum Launches “Women Who Ran For President” Online Exhibit

July 13th, 2016

WASHINGTON, DC– Today, the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) launched a new digital exhibit in partnership with Google Culture and Arts, profiling women who have run for president of the United States throughout our nation’s history. With the first woman becoming the presumptive nominee of a major party last month, NWHM has released new online content to highlight the history of women’s contributions to American politics and the impact their entrance into the race for the nation’s top office will have on our future.


NWHM’s online exhibit, “First but Not the Last:Women Who Ran for President,” examines the ground-breaking platforms and strategies used by women to seek the nation’s highest office. The exhibit includes historic milestones from the first woman to secure a spot on a primary ballot to the first woman becoming a major party’s presumptive presidential nominee.


“Women have been running for president even before they had the right to vote and that is a rich part of our country’s history that should be known,” said NWHM CEO and President Joan B. Wages. “We are working to broaden the country’s understanding of the enormous contributions woman have made to politics over the years.”


NWHM has partnered with the Google Cultural Institute, an initiative aimed at creating technologies that bring the world’s cultural and heritage institutions online, in order to share the Museum’s robust offerings of online exhibits with a worldwide audience. Today, NWHM was one of 44 institutions selected as part of The American Democracy collection from CGI, displaying over 60 exhibits and 2,500 plus artifacts.


“Telling the stories of these women is an important part of completing the American narrative and inspiring the next generation of female leaders,” said Wages. “We are excited to work with organizations such as Google to communicate the breadth of women’s experiences and accomplishments to the widest audience possible.”


To view the exhibit, visit or to learn more about NWHM, please visit




Contact: Melissa Williams 703-461-1920


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, the Museum’s goal is to build a world-class, permanent museum in Washington, DC, 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.


About Google Arts & Culture

Google Arts & Culture is a product of the Google Cultural institute and its partners designed to put the world’s cultural treasures at the fingertips of Internet users and to assist the cultural sector in sharing more of its diverse heritage online. The Google Cultural Institute has partnered with more than 1100 institutions, providing the Arts & culture platform to over 400 thousand artworks and a total of 5 million photos, videos, manuscripts and other documents of art, culture and history. The exhibitions on Google Arts & Culture are open for all online, for free on the web and through the new Google Arts & Culture mobile app on iOS and Android. Read more here.


National Women’s History Museum Welcomes New Board Members

June 29th, 2016

Organization Enhances Strategic Leadership with Public, Private and Nonprofit Expertise

Washington, D.C. – The National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) is pleased to announce the addition of four new members to its board of directors: Jon Bouker, Mari Snyder Johnson, Julie Smolyansky and Joan Walker. The board provides leadership for delivering on NWHM’s mission to build a world-class museum on the National Mall that educates, inspires, empowers and shapes the future by integrating women’s distinctive stories into the culture and history of the United States.

“NWHM is pleased to have these accomplished members join our board at this exciting time in our evolution,” said NWHM Board Chair Susan Whiting. “These new board members bring their valuable expertise from the worlds of government relations, communications and marketing, community engagement, nonprofit strategy and business, as well as a firm commitment to ensuring women’s contributions to American history are included in our national narrative.”

About NWHM’s New Board Members

Jon Bouker is a long-time government relations leader with extensive experience in the U.S. Congress, who brings his expertise in legislation, business relations and economic development. As co-practice group leader of Arent Fox’s government relations practice, he represents clients before Congress, The White House and federal agencies, particularly the General Services Administration. Jon also served as chief counsel and legislative director to Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and minority counsel to Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

Mari Snyder Johnson is a business executive and CEO specializing in diverse entrepreneurial opportunities, an executive producer for both feature and documentary films and a passionate activist for socially conscious causes. She brings media and business management experience as well as legislative relationships and acumen. Prior to joining NWHM’s board, Mari served as an advisor to the organization’s president, Joan Wages, where she helped advance passage of the legislation that established the commission to study the feasibility of a National Women’s History Museum on the National Mall.

Julie Smolyansky became the youngest female CEO of a publicly held firm when she assumed that role at Lifeway Foods at age 27, and brings a successful track record in business and social advocacy to the Museum’s board. Julie bolstered Lifeway’s growth trajectory with innovative product development and marketing strategies, boosting annual revenues to more than $130 million by 2015 and expanded distribution throughout the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom. She is a member of the United Nations Foundation Global Entrepreneurs Council and part of the 2015 class of Young Global Leaders of the World Economic Forum.

Joan Walker retired as executive vice president of corporate relations from All State and brings more than 25 years of experience in corporate and nonprofit communications. At All State she was responsible for reputation management, strategic media communications and corporate social responsibility. She currently serves as a member of the board of trustees of the Arthur W. Page Society, the Insurance Education Institute, the Business Civic Leadership Center, the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, the Chicago Architecture Foundation, and on the planning committee for the Clinton Global Initiative.

“We could not be prouder of the board we have assembled and are confident that their experience and skills will be a great asset to the Museum,” said NWHM President and CEO Joan Wages. “They bring a variety of experiences and backgrounds that strengthen our strategic leadership and will help us achieve our vision of a world-class museum dedicated to incorporating women’s stories into American history.”


For more information on NWHM, please visit



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(L to R: Jon Bouker, Joan Walker, Julie Smolyanksy)



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, 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 or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


Media inquiries:

For press inquiries or credentials, please contact Melissa Williams, NWHM communications manager, or 703-416-1920.

Women Who Have Run For President

June 9th, 2016

Long before women had the right to vote, a few courageous women challenged the political ideology of their day by running for president. Hillary Clinton as the most recent woman to campaign for the position joins a group of amazing women who aspired to fill the U.S. highest political role. Learn about a few of these women and how they changed the political landscape at

NWHM Expresses Condolences on Passing of Robin Read

June 7th, 2016

Washington, DC – The Board of Directors of the National Women’s History Museum expresses its condolences to the family of Robin Read, entrepreneur and former Museum board member.  Read passed away on June 2. She joined the Museum’s board in 2010.

“Robin was deeply committed to women’s organizations and the Museum. She was an outstanding colleague and board member,” said the Museum’s CEO and President Joan Wages. “It was an honor to work with her and to be the recipient of her vast knowledge and experience.”

An entrepreneur, Read had extensive experience in the public and business sectors. She worked in public relations, radio and print journalism as well as owned several small businesses. She served with the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors. She was also a leader within several women’s organizations in the DC area including the Women’s Information Network and Charter 100. She served as CEO and Founder of the National Foundation for Women Legislators (NFWL), the largest and oldest organization for elected women at all levels of governance from all 50 states and territories.  Founded in 1938, she brought NFWL from a few members and no national office to an organization of over 2,000 elected women and nearly 1,000 corporations, associations and individual sponsors.