It’s Women’s History Month in the U.S.! Have you visited or wanted to visit any museums, monuments, memorials, or other historic sites related to the history of women? Here are a few I’ve visited or that catch my eye. (It's a limited list, and because of my limitations, includes only English and French language sites.) Most are in the U.S., a few are outside it, and a few are online only. If you want, share your suggestions and favorites in the comments!
In the United States:
The Women’s Rights National Historic Park in Seneca Falls, New York, where you can “[d]iscover how five women changed the world”:
In 1848 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and four other women invited the public to the First Women's Rights Convention to discuss expanding the role of women in America. At the end of the two days, 100 people made a public commitment to work together to improve women’s quality of life. While women have achieved greater equality with the vote, property rights, and education, the revolution continues today.
The National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Fort Worth Texas, has as its tagline “The Women Who Shape the West…Change the World.” Its exhibits vary, and include a travelling exhibit on Sandra Day O’Connor.
Miss Lucy Craft Laney was born in Macon, Georgia on April 13, 1854, eleven years before slavery ended…With the encouragement of the Christ Presbyterian Church, USA, Miss Laney started the first school in Augusta, Georgia for black boys and girls… In addition to starting her own school, the Haines Normal and Industrial Institute, Miss Laney started the first black kindergarten in Augusta, Georgia and the first black nursing school in the city, the Lamar School of Nursing.
In Chicago, the Jane Addams Hull House Museum provides insight into the life of the social reformer. (And, despite the closing of the Jane Addams Hull-House Association), the museum is still open!
The Jane Addams Hull-House Museum serves as a dynamic memorial to social reformer Jane Addams, the first American woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, and her colleagues whose work changed the lives of their immigrant neighbors as well as national and international public policy. The Museum preserves and develops the original Hull-House site for the interpretation and continuation of the historic settlement house vision, linking research, education, and social engagement.
The GLBT History Museum in San Francisco offers a number of exhibits of interest to the history of lesbian women in the United States. The Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brooklyn is a library, museum, and gathering space: ” We especially welcome the “casual browser,” the lesbian who is searching for an image of herself in our past or just wants to find out more about the herstory of our communities. Of course, we also welcome academic researchers, writers, filmmakers, and others who use our materials for specific projects.”
Unlike conventional statues that are larger than life or set high upon pedestals, the subjects of the Boston Women's Memorial are sculpted in a manner that invites the observer to interact with them. Each woman is shown in a pose that reflects the use of language in her life and instead of standing on her pedestal, she is using it.
The International Women’s Air & Space Museum in Cleveland, Ohio, USA offers a variety of exhibits relating to women in aviation, from the early days of ballooning to spaceflight.
The Ida B. Wells Museum in Holly Springs, MS, includes exhibits related to the life of the great anti-lynching campaigner, women’s rights activist, and journalist. It also includes other items related to African-American history, an art collections and a hands-on room for children to feel and touch.
The Women’s Museum of California hosts and annual suffrage parade every August (cool!) and has some amazing-sounding upcoming exhibits such as Women of the Issei Generation and Viva El Mariachi Feminil!Although statues of Sacagawea and sites named for Pocahontas are widespread in the United States, there are few places dedicated to offering a historical appreciation of Native American women’s lives. The Sacajawea Washington State Park offers an interpretive center that touches on the topic of Sacagawea and Shoshone women. The National Shrine to Kateri Tekakwitha in Fonda, NY, is a religious center dedicated to the Mohawk woman who is also a saint. And while it still seems to be in its early stages, I was happy to find the Pablita Verlarde Museum of Indian Women in the Arts in Santa Fe New Mexico, “ [a] Museum to display the work of and educate about Indian Women Artists.”
The Women’s Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery is dedicated to women who have served the United States in the military:
The Women's Memorial is a unique, living memorial honoring all military women - past, present and future - and is the only major national memorial honoring women who have served in our nation's defense during all eras and in all services.
While you are at Arlington, you may also want to visit the Nurses’ Memorial. The Vietnam Women’s Memorial honoring American servicewomen in Vietnam, may also be of interest, and is located near the Maya Lin-designed Vietnam Wall.
There are a number of locations related to women’s history in Washington, but some memorials to African-American women especially stand out to me. The Mary McLeod Bethune memorial was the first in the city dedicated to an African American leader; you can also visit The Mary MacLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site. Sojourner Truth was the first Black woman honored with a memorial in the U.S. Capitol. And while I haven’t yet seen the recently unveiled Rosa Parks memorial it’s on my must-see list.
Canada, the U.K., and Senegal:
The Musee de la femme in Longueuil, QC is pretty amazing, celebrating women’s history in Canada since 1617:
Il valorise notre patrimoine féminin par des acquisitions, des expositions, de la formation et d’autres activités d’animation. L’exposition permanente, accès sur 400 ans d'histoire au féminin, est conçue autour de salles thématiques sur l’histoire des femmes, d'un discours sur l'évolution de leurs droits civiques, et d'artefacts tels que : des robes, des objets domestiques, des mobiliers d’époque, mais aussi, des vidéos et des photos.
(My hasty and inelegant translation: “It celebrates our feminine heritage though collections, exhibits, training, and other forms of outreach. The permanent exhibit, accessing “400 Years of History in the Feminine,” is designed around women’s history-themed rooms, in a conversation on the evolution of their civil rights and the artifacts that reveal it: clothing, household objects, period furniture, videos and pictures.”)
Other interesting sites in Canada include Ottawa’s Famous Five Memorial (commemorating the five women who fought to have women recognized as “persons” under the British North America Act), and the Kateri Tekakwitha Shrinein Kahnawake, QC. And while I’m very sad to see the Lucy Maud Montgomery Museum up for sale, fans of the writer and her works can still travel to P.E.I. and visit the Anne of Green Gables Museum at Silver Bush and the Lucy Maud Montgomery School Museum. in Bedeque, “dedicated to Lucy Maud Montgomery and all one room schoolhouse teachers on PEI.”
The Women’s Library In London is home to one of the largest research collections for women’s history in the world. Its exhibition The Long March to Equality: Treasures of The Women's Library is currently closed, but is scheduled to re-open March 8:
‘Treasures’ from the Library’s collection have been selected because they represent the most significant moments in women’s history, and evidence the remarkable achievements of campaigning women’s groups and individuals. Retold through a range of visual media, the exhibition uncovers some of the most fascinating stories in British history, supported by a special audio guide featuring some of Britain’s most famous voices, including: Bill Nighy, Sophie Dahl and Sandi Toksvig.
And while you’re in London, you can certainly visit many statues and other memorials to interesting individual women. For example, I really want to see the recently unveiled memorial to Noor Inayat Khan, located in Gordon Square Gardens, which honors the World War II SOE agent who gave her life in the fight against Nazism:
Noor Inayat Khan, a descendant of the legendary Tipu Sultan, was a secret agent in the Second World War.…Armed with only a false passport and a pistol, the beautiful and gentle Noor became the first woman radio operator to be sent to occupied Paris. However, she was betrayed and captured by the Germans. Despite being repeatedly tortured and interrogated, she revealed nothing. She was executed by an SS officer on September 13, 1944, at Dachau Concentration Camp. She was only 30. Britain posthumously awarded her the George Cross for her extraordinary bravery, and France honoured her with the Croix de Guerre.
2012 saw the unveiling of a new memorial at Clochan, Fochabers, in Scotland commemorating the Women’s Land Army and the work of the “land girls” in feeding Britain during the Second World War. If you’d like to find more women’s –related memorials in Scotland to visit, check out the Mapping Memorials of Women in Scotland project. From accused witch Kate McNiven’s Crag to a memorial for the midwife Mary Bennie Cockburn this site certainly offers some interesting ideas for a women’s history-themed trail in Scotland.
The Musée de la Femme Henriette-Bathily in Gorée, Senegal, provides insight into women’s lives during the colonial period. It also includes more contemporary materials on women from a variety of ethnicities and regions within the country and provides outreach on a number of topics:
Une visite de l’endroit vous permet de plonger dans les réalités de la vie domestique, économique, politique, culturelle et religieuse de la femme sénégalaise en général, et selon son appartenance ethnique, en particulier (wolof, sérère, diola, peulh, soninké, mandingue etc …). On y découvre également la vie sociale et les activités artistiques de celles qui constituent plus de la moitié de la population sénégalaise ; les techniques artisanales (teinture et broderie, poterie) l’habillement, les parures et autres éléments de séduction qui « contribuent à la beauté de la femme sénégalaise ».
(My hasty translation: A tour of the site lets you delve into the realities of domestic economic, political, cultural and religious life of Senegalese women in general, as well as by particular ethnicity, (Wolof, Serer, Diola, Fulani, Soninke , Mandingo etc ...) You can discover the social and artistic activities of those who make up more than half of Senegal’s population, including artisanal skills, (dyeing and embroidery, pottery), clothing, jewelry and other alluring elements that "contribute to the beauty of Senegalese women.”)
The Chinese Canadian Women exhibit:
…explores a compelling chapter of Canadian history through the experiences of Chinese Canadian women. his website brings together thirty-three new oral history interviews and over 1,000 historical photographs and records…The years 1923 and 1967 bracket a period of discriminatory immigration policy, beginning with the enactment of The Chinese Immigration Act and ending with the removal of race as a factor in immigration decisions.The Women’s Museum Istanbul is Turkey’s first museum dedicated to the history of women:
The aim of the museum is to provide a showcase for the history of women in Turkey, a history which was lost, distorted or disowned all too quickly by the mainstream of opinion, and to share this history, as a counterpart to male-dominated historical writing, thus creating an inspiring new cultural model. The Women's Museum Istanbul is envisaged as a project to create and encourage understanding and dialogue between the generations, genders and between the different cultural and ethnic groups of the city.
The National Pioneer Women’s Museum of Austrialia houses three online exhibits" “"Women at the Heart: Pioneering Women of Central Australia," "Ordinary Women/Extraordinary Lives: First in their Field," and "Women's Work is Never Done."
The Madame CJ Walker Museum provides a treasury of online exhibits related to this remarkable entrepreneur of beauty products for African-American women.
The Girl Museum is “a virtual space for research, exhibitions, collaboration, and education centered wholly on the subject of being a girl.”
The Virtual Museum of Canada offers a wide range of women’s related exhibits.
The Jewish Women’s Archive offers several online exhibits:
Contemporary Activists highlights the life choices and accomplishments of Jewish "women who dared" in four American cities. Women of Valor presents the inspiring stories of 16 trailblazing American Jewish women. A complementary series of posters is available. Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution explores the profound impact Jewish women had on the women's movement and on American life. Katrina's Jewish Voices documents the experiences of Jewish residents of the Gulf Coast and the response of the national Jewish community during and after Hurricane Katrina.
Please feel free to share your favourite Sites of Women’s history in comments!