Center for Women's History
Explore women's history through exhibitions, programs, scholarship, and immersive multimedia.
About the center
Our Center for Women’s History is the first of its kind in the nation within the walls of a major museum. At the Center, we explore the lives and legacies of women who have shaped and continue to shape the American experience. As a hub for scholarship and education, the Center demonstrates how women across the spectrum of race, class, and sexuality exercised power and effected change. Guided by a committee of distinguished historians and informed by the latest research, the Center features permanent installations, temporary exhibitions, and a vibrant array of talks and programs, enriching the cultural landscape of New York City and creating new opportunities for historical discovery.
"Miss Rose Bower of North Dakota" Woman playing trumpet, wearing "Votes for Women" sash. Gelatin Silver Photograph, New-York Historical Society.
Major funding for the Center for Women's History programs provided by
The Estate of Jean Dubinsky Appleton
Claudine and Fred Bacher
James Basker and Angela Vallot
Joyce B. Cowin
Diana and Joseph DiMenna
Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation
The Robert David Lion Gardiner Foundation
Richard Gilder and Lois Chiles
Susan and Roger Hertog
Susan and Robert Klein
The Leonard & Judy Lauder Fund
Diane and Adam E. Max
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Jennifer and John Monsky
Amanda and Neal Moszkowski
Jean Margo Reid
Pan and Scott Schafler
Eric J. and Daria L. Wallach
Leah and Michael R. Weisberg
Public funding for the Center for Women’s History
The New York City Council
New York City Department of Cultural Affairs
Empire State Development and I Love New York under
Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Regional Development Council Initiative
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Nina Leen, unpublished photograph from “American Woman’s Dilemma,” LIFE, June 16, 1947. © LIFE Picture Collection, Meredith Corporation. Leen also photographed single working women for “American Woman’s Dilemma,” but most of those photographs, such as this one, were not printed in the magazine.
Ladies' Garments, Women's Work, Women's Activism
February 22 - July 21, 2019
The story of the International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union and its role in shaping women’s activism is explored through garments, objects, documents, and photographs in this special installation. Through their work, the ILGWU and its women organizers shaped women’s movements across the 20th century, from the suffrage movement of the 1910s to the fight for the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970s.
LIFE: Six Women Photographers
June 28, 2019 – October 6, 2019
For the editors of LIFE—the first magazine to tell stories with photographs rather than text—the camera was not merely a reporter, but also a potent commentator with the power to frame news and events for a popular audience. For decades, Americans saw the world through the lens of the magazine’s photographers. Between the late 1930s and the early 1970s, LIFE magazine retained few women photographers as full-time staff or on a semi-permanent basis. LIFE: Six Women Photographers showcases the work of some of those women and how their work contributed to LIFE’s pursuit of American identity through photojournalism. The exhibition features more than 70 images showcasing the extraordinary work created by Margaret Bourke-White, Hansel Mieth, Marie Hansen, Martha Holmes, Nina Leen, and Lisa Larsen.
How were these women part of a larger editorial vision? What topics did they cover, and how did their work reflect—and sometimes expand—the mission of the magazine? The exhibit reveals these photographers’ important role in creating modern photojournalism and defining what LIFE editor-in-chief Henry Luce called the “American Century.” Curated by Sarah Gordon, curatorial scholar in women’s history, Center for Women’s History, and Marilyn Satin Kushner, curator and head, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections; with Erin Levitsky, Ryerson University; and William J. Simmons, Andrew Mellon Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellow, Center for Women’s History.
Artist in Exile: The Visual Diary of Baroness Hyde De Neuville
November 1, 2019 – January 26, 2020
Self-taught and ahead of her time, Anne Marguérite Joséphine Henriette Rouillé de Marigny, Baroness Hyde de Neuville (1771–1849) was the first woman artist in America to leave a substantial body of work. Granted exile by Napoleon, she first made her mark in New York City and later Washington, D.C., and her art celebrates the people and scenes of the early American republic, documenting the young country’s history, culture, and diverse population. The first serious consideration of her life and art, this exhibition showcases more than 100 watercolors and drawings, including many that were recently discovered. A scholarly catalogue accompanies the exhibition.
Betye Saar: Keepin' it Clean
November 2, 2018 – May 27, 2019
Contemporary artist Betye Saar has shaped the development of assemblage art in the United States, particularly as a device to illuminate social and political concerns. A key figure in the Black Arts Movement and the feminist art movement of the 1960-70s, Saar’s distinct vision harmonizes the personal and the political. Over the years, Saar has transformed the representation of African Americans in American culture by recycling and reclaiming derogatory images such as Aunt Jemimas, Uncle Toms, sambos, and mammies to confront the continued racism in American society and create representations of strength and perseverance. This exhibition focuses on one facet of her work—washboards—created between 1997 and 2017. Presented in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, part of the Center for Women’s History, the exhibition is organized by the Craft and Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles.
Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes
April 20, 2018 – October 8, 2018
Shoes in recent years have culturally transcended their utilitarian purpose to become an object of desire and deliberation, calling up abstract considerations—like the freighted meanings of femininity, power, domination, and aspiration—for both women and men alike. Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes highlights examples from the shoe designer’s extensive private collection, assembled over three decades.
November 3, 2017 - March 28, 2018
Hotbed explores the vibrant political and artistic scene of Greenwich Village in the early 20th century, where men and women joined forces across the boundaries of class and race to fight for a better world. At the heart of the downtown radicals’ crusade lay women’s rights: to control their own bodies, to do meaningful work, and above all, to vote.
The Duchess of Carnegie Hall: Photographs by Editta Sherman
August 18, 2017-October 15, 2017
Art was a business and a calling for photographer Editta Sherman (1913-2013). After her husband’s death in 1954, she worked tirelessly to maintain the portrait photography business that they had established. Working—and living—in one of the artist studios above Carnegie Hall for more than 60 years, Sherman charmed her celebrity clients with a vivacity and warmth that was reflected in the portraits of her subjects.
March 08, 2017-July 30, 2017
As the inaugural exhibition in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery, Saving Washington recasts the traditional Founding Fathers narrative to consider the less-examined contributions of women whose behind-the-scenes efforts helped implement the Constitution “on the ground.” In spite of laws restricting their broader participation, elite and non-elite women alike sought various avenues for empowerment, activism, and leadership.