List of Exhibitions and Displays Opening March 2019 – June 2020
Three National Museum of American History exhibitions opening in 2019 and 2020 are part of the Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative #BecauseOfHerStory. The initiative is one of the country’s most ambitious undertakings to research, collect, document display and share the compelling story of women. It will deepen our understanding of women’s contributions to the nation and the world. Designed to amplify women’s crucial roles in building and sustaining the nation, the three exhibitions are “All Work and No Pay,” “Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage” and “Girlhood! (It’s Complicated).”
“All Work and No Pay”: Opens March 4, 2019, and Closes February 2020
Break rooms across America hold signs that read: “Your mother doesn’t work here.” The Smithsonian National Museum of American History’s new display “All Work and No Pay: A History of Women’s Invisible Labor” examines just that: the implied expectation that women will take care of the housework. The exhibit, opening March 4, shows that despite making steps forward in the paid labor force, women continued to be responsible for the almost-timeless and undeniably endless unpaid work at home.
Pockets, aprons, housedresses and a variety of other costumes meant for domestic work from colonial America to the 1990s are featured. Objects from various ethnic communities and classes will highlight how women shared similar tasks across race and class despite the complicated dynamics and inequalities between them. Through this display, visitors can see how women have always worked and debate the value and implications of unwaged labor in the home.
“Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage”: Opens March 6, 2020/Closes TBD
To mark the 100th anniversary of the groundbreaking 19th Amendment that recognized women’s right to vote, the museum will open “Creating Icons: How We Remember Women’s Suffrage.” Designed to commemorate women’s achievements in winning suffrage, the exhibit will invite audiences to explore how we celebrate, what we remember, what (and who) has been forgotten or silenced over time and how those exclusions helped create the cracks and fissures in the movement that continue to impact women’s politics and activism. A jewel box approach will display a small group of artifacts in conjunction with graphics and media – an interweaving of the “famous” and the “forgotten.” The most impressive piece, a six-foot oil portrait of Susan B. Anthony, will be the centerpiece of the exhibition. Painted by Sarah J. Eddy in 1900, it depicts an idealized image of Anthony being presented with flowers by young boys and girls on the occasion of her 80th birthday. Other Items from the National American Women Suffrage Association collection (now the League of Women Voters) donated to the Smithsonian between 1919 and 1920 will be featured. Materials related to Adelaide Johnson (sculptor of Portrait Monument in the Capitol), Alice Paul (suffragist and activist who helped secure women’s right to vote) and the National Woman’s Party (NWP), and other suffrage and women’s activism collections are included.
“Girlhood! (It’s Complicated)”: Opens June 12, 2020, and Closes Jan 2, 2022, and will travel through SITES
For decades, young women were told that girls were “made of sugar and spice and everything nice.” What we learn from history is that many girls were made of stronger stuff. They changed history. This will be a signature exhibition at the museum and it is designed to travel through the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Through its rich collections and new acquisitions, the museum will explore how girls have been on the front lines of social and cultural change. Girlhood (It’s Complicated) engages in timely conversations about youth movements and women’s history through unexpected stories of girlhood in the United States. With the design inspired by zines, the 5,000 square-foot gallery will have five story sections: Education (Being Schooled), Wellness (Body Talk), Work (Hey, Where is My Girlhood?), Fashion (Girl’s Remix) as well as biographical interactives called “A Girl’s Life.”
Through incomparable collections, rigorous research and dynamic public outreach, the National Museum of American History explores the infinite richness and complexity of American history. It helps people understand the past in order to make sense of the present and shape a more humane future. The museum is located on Constitution Avenue N.W., between 12th and 14th Streets, and is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free.
More information about the initiative is available at https://womenshistory.si.edu.