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.

 

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"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

Joyce B. Cowin
Diane and Adam E. Max
The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
Jean Margo Reid
The Estate of Jean Dubinsky Appleton
Eric J. and Daria L. Wallach
Diana and Joseph DiMenna
Robert and Mercedes Eichholz Foundation
Deutsche Bank
Claudine and Fred Bacher
James Basker and Angela Vallot
The Caroline M. Lowndes Foundation
Leah and Michael R. Weisberg 

Public funding for the Center for Women’s History
provided by

New York City Department of Cultural Affairs,
in partnership with the City Council

Empire State Development and I LOVE NEW YORK
under Governor Andrew Cuomo’s
Regional Economic Development Council Initiative

Women’s History Salon series "A discussion of women in journalism in the 21st century." Irin Carmon and Joy-Ann Reid - November 28, 2017.
Photo: Sean Turi

Guided by its committee of expert scholars, the Center for Women’s History presents a full calendar of public events. Join us for exciting programs and intimate conversations with scholars, journalists, artists, writers, businesswomen, and more amazing leaders of today.

Lead support for the Center for Women's History programs provided by Joyce B. Cowin, Diane and Adam E Max, Jean Margo Reid, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

Upcoming Events

Hearing History Live and Out Loud
Friday, February 22, 7 pm, Dexter Hall 
Inspired by the Big Band Era of Jazz, Dandy Wellington and His Band have taken the sounds of the 1930s and ‘40s and created a world of well-dressed music. The program will feature the songs associated with women who have contributed incredible music, perspective, and performances to Jazz and the black American experience. 

Force and Freedom: Black Abolitionists and the Politics of Violence
Wednesday, February 27, 5:30 PM, Skylight Gallery 
The new book Force and Freedom is the first historical analysis exclusively focused on the tactical use of violence among antebellum black activists. It examines one of the perennial questions in political thought: Is violence a valid means of producing social change? Historian Kellie Carter Jackson, assistant professor of Africana Studies at Wellesley College, addresses how black abolitionists answered this question. Steven Hahn, professor of history at New York University, joins Dr. Jackson in conversation about this important new work.

All the Single Ladies: “Women’s Only" Buildings in Early 20th c. New York
Wednesday, March 13, 5:30 pm, Skylight Gallery
Join historian Nina Harkrader for a discussion of "all the single ladies" who bravely forged new paths for women in early 20th-century New York City. We'll explore the women-only homes designed to offer "good moral surroundings" for young ladies, the hotels that provided independence and ladylike comforts for “business women,” and a taste of what it might have been like to make one's way through New York City in the heady, early years of the 1900s. Buy Tickets >

Labor and the Black Body: The Slave Ship Icon in the Work of Betye Saar
Friday, March 15, 6:30 pm, Skylight Gallery 
The washboard assemblages of Betye Saar—currently on view in our exhibition Betye Saar: Keepin' It Cleanfeature several recurring themes and images from African American history. Among these is the iconic print of the slave ship Brookes, first circulated by British abolitionists in 1788 and now recognized worldwide as symbol of the barbaric reality of slavery. Buy Tickets >

Reconfiguring the Past
Friday, March 22, 6:30 pm, Skylight Gallery
After a distinguished career as a historian, Nell Painter—the Edwards Professor Emerita of American History at Princeton—became a visual artist. “Using found images and digital manipulation,” Painter writes, “I reconfigure the past and revision myself through self-portraits. After a life of historical truth and political engagement with American society, my artwork represents freedom.” Painter joins Valerie Paley, chief historian and director of New-York Historical’s Center for Women’s History, for a conversation about her own practice and the intersection of art and history. Buy Tickets >

Ladies' Garments, Women's work, Women's Activism: Garment Work and Women's Organizing in New York City
Friday, March 29, 6:30 PM
In honor of Women’s History Month—and the anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire on March 25, 1911—the Center for Women’s History welcomes scholars Alice Kessler-Harris, Margaret M. Chin, and Janette Gayle to discuss the ILGWU’s impact on the labor movement and women’s movements, moderated by New-York Historical’s Nick Juravich.  Buy Tickets >

Past Events:

The Furies: Women's Rage, Women's Power
Wednesday, January 23, 6:30 PM, Auditorium
Two of America's most important feminist voices have written books grappling with the power of women's anger. Brittney Cooper's Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower and Rebecca Traister's Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's Anger take women's fury seriously as a political response and force for change. They place women's rage in historical context, and show how such anger has been trivialized or weaponized to undermine women. Join us for a lively conversation as Cooper and Traister discuss women's anger with New York magazine senior correspondent and CNN contributor Irin Carmon.

Black Women Artists and Curators in New York City
Friday, January 18, 6:30 PM, Skylight Gallery
In November, the Center for Women's History opened Betye Saar: Keepin' It Clean in the Joyce B. Cowin Women's History Gallery amid a remarkable outpouring of black women's creative labor in New York City. Meanwhile, also on view at New-York Historical, Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow tells many of the historical stories that Saar's artwork interrogates. At the Brooklyn Museum, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power features Saar's work alongside that of her contemporaries in the Black Arts Movement. And at Columbia's Wallach gallery, Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet to Matisse to Today explores the changing modes of representation of the black figure as central to the development of modern art.

Underground History: Celebrating the Centennial of the Field Exploration Committee and the Dawn of Historical Archaeology of New York City
Thursday, December 6, 6:30 pm, Skylight Gallery
How do scholars uncover the history of New York City? In the 1890s, a few intrepid individuals left the library and started digging. William Calver, Reginald Pelham Bolton, and their colleagues were among the first to explore New York’s archaeological record, excavating native villages and Revolutionary War encampments. Join Dr. William J. Parry, professor of anthropology at Hunter College, and Dr. Joan H. Geismar, PANYC president, join Dr. Valerie Paley, vice president and chief historian and director of the Center for Women's History, for a conversation on the legacy of the the Field Exploration Committee (FEC), which profoundly shaped the practice of urban archaeology.

Female Remedies and Wicked Women: Reproductive Health in 19th-Century New York
Friday, November 16, 6:30 pm, Dexter Hall
How did New York women manage their reproductive health in the 19th century? They could seek out patent medicines promising “relief” for everything from crying children to pregnancy itself—but who knew what was inside these bottles? Abortion was outlawed in the middle of the century, but some women doctors and midwives dared to provide it, including Ann Trow Lohman (AKA Madame Restell), whom authorities labeled the “wickedest woman” in New York. What can this history teach us about the importance of equitable access to reproductive health today? Join playwright Jessica Bashline, author of Wickedest Woman, and Dr. Ana Cepin of Physicians for Reproductive Health, in conversation with curator Sarah Gordon of the Center for Women’s History for a discussion on reproductive health in New York City, past and present.

Spicy Talk: The Dish on 7 Decades of Food in New York City
Wednesday, October 24, 7 pm, Dexter Hall
How did the city’s restaurants evolve from eating dens to dining establishments—and from fads to fabulous? Chef Angie Mar, restaurant critic Mimi Sheraton, and former Food and Wine editor Dana Cowin join us for a robust conversation about New York restaurants—then and now—and discuss their unlikely friendship and lessons about amazing food. Angie Mar is the lauded chef of the Beatrice Inn, the edgy, underground Greenwich Village chophouse and former Prohibition-era speakeasy. Award-winning author and legendary food columnist Mimi Sheraton was the first female restaurant critic for the New York Times in the 1970s and ‘80s. Moderator Dana Cowin, former long-time editor-in-chief of Food and Wine magazine, is the chief creative officer at Chefs Club International and the creative mind behind the food radio program, Speaking Broadly.

Collecting Shoes: An Obsession
September 26, 6:30 pm, Dexter Hall
Everyone on the planet—with few exceptions—wears something to protect the skin of the foot from the crust of the earth. Yet the humble shoe also can be an object of desire, display, and deliberation. In conjunction with our exhibition Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historic Shoes, designer Stuart Weitzman and philanthropist Jane Gershon Weitzman discuss what shoes can mean and how they as a  couple came to amass a substantial historic collection. 

They All Dressed for Bill (Cunningham)
September 7, 6:30 pm, Dexter Hall
Using his camera as a notebook, legendary New York Times style photographer Bill Cunningham (1929–2016) became one of the most influential authorities of style and society of his time. With the scrutiny of an anthropologist in the field, he let the streets “speak” to him as he gathered visual data on how fashions mirrored the times. For years, John Kurdewan, Cunningham’s long-time collaborator and friend, crafted the photographer’s images into iconic layouts for the newspaper, while the Times’ Style section editor and writer Joanna Nikas edited the popular “On the Street” videos, which featured Bill’s inimitable voice. Join them in conversation with Center for Women's History director Valerie Paley as they share anecdotes about the beloved photographer’s process and vision.

Center for Women's History Salon with Samantha Bee and Irin Carmon
June 25, 7 pm, Dexter Hall
Join us for a riveting discussion from two of current media's most enthralling (and entertaining) minds. Emmy-winning journalist and comedian Samantha Bee joins author and journalist Irin Carmon to discuss women, politics, and the media today. Samantha Bee is the host of the weekly late night Emmy-winning comedy series Full Frontal with Samantha BeeIrin Carmon is a journalist and author of Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Sob Sisters and Life Coaches
April 10, 7 – 8 pm, Skylight Gallery
Professional advice-givers have been answering Americans' thorniest, most intimate questions since before the nation was founded. Women came to prominence in the field partly in reaction to the emotional conservatism of the 19th century. Apart from giving advice, they were also generous purveyors of either empathy or encouragement—and sometimes both. In conversation with Center for Women's History Director Valerie Paley, Jessica Weisberg discusses her new book, Asking for a Friend: Three Centuries of Advice on Life, Love, Money, and Other Burning Questions from a Nation Obsessed, with Center for Women’s History director Valerie Paley.

The War Against Breast Cancer
April 9, 6 – 7 pm, Skylight Gallery
​Biographer and journalist Susan Hertog joins us at the Museum for a conversation with New-York Historical Society President & CEO​ Louise Mirrer, Ph.D., about entrepreneur and philanthropist Evelyn Lauder, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and ​​The War Against Breast Cancer​.​ Refreshments will be served.

Art and Women's Rights
March 16, 5:30 – 7 pm, Skylight Gallery
How did art promote women’s rights at the turn of the 20th century? Join us as historian and printmaker Carole Turbin, historian April F. Masten—author of Art Work: Women Artists and Democracy in Mid-Nineteenth Century New York—and curator Sarah Gordon discuss the role of art in the fight for suffrage. We’ll journey together on a casual walk through our Hotbed exhibition to explore activism and the influence of the Greenwich Village bohemian scene on the New York suffrage movement as well as how activists used visuals to seek social and political change.

Monumental Women: A Statue for Central Park 
March 9, 5:30 – 7 pm, Skylight Gallery
Central Park currently boasts 23 statues of men. Conspicuously absent among them are portrayals of real women. Michele H. Bogart, professor of American visual culture studies at Stony Brook University, and Pam Elam, president of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund discuss the recent initiative to bring depictions of women's right's pioneers Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony into the park and into the larger conversation.

Women and Work
January 17, 2018 – 7 pm cocktails - 7:30 pm discussion
New-York Historical’s President & CEO Louise Mirrer sits down with Ellevest CEO and co-founder Sallie Krawcheck to discuss women and work. Check out Krawcheck’s piece last week in the New York Times, “The Cost of Devaluing Women.”


Women of the Village
December 15, 2017 – 5 pm tour - 6 pm discussion
Leading scholars and Center for Women’s History Advisory Board members Blanche Wiesen Cook and Lara Vapnek talk with Hotbed curators Sarah Gordon and Joanna Scutts about how bohemian Greenwich Village incubated women's activism in early 20th-century New York. Before the discussion, join us for a curator-led tour of the exhibition.

Women in Journalism in the 21st Century 
November 28, 2017 – 7 pm cocktails - 7:30 pm discussion 
Join Joy-Ann Reid, MSNBC host and national correspondent, and Irin Carmon, journalist, commentator, and author of Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, for a conversation on women in journalism in the 21st Century.

Creative: Tronvig Group