From observing parallels between current events and the British invasion of the capitol in 1812 to mourning of bell hooks, Women at the Center has spent 2021 demonstrating how women’s history speaks to our present moment and can reveal new understandings of our collective past. In this post, the Center for Women’s History looks back at our past year, highlighting the themes and topics that caught our imagination over 2021.

Katharine Graham and Ben Bradlee leave U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., 1971, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin

Inspired by our exhibition, Cover Story: Katharine Graham, CEO, the Center for Women’s History published a series of posts exploring the lives and professional experiences of women in media. This included posts on Nellie Bly, Ruth Hale, Diana Davies, and Ella Baker and Marvel Jackson Cooke. It also included an in-depth look at Katharine Graham’s decision to publish the Pentagon Papers and a peek into how the online interactive created in partnership with the participants in New-York Historical Society’s Teen Leaders program featured radical journalists of color. We also posted recaps of some of the virtual programs from the 2021 Diane and Adam E. Max Conference on Women’s History virtual conference, Breaking News, Breaking Barriers: Women in American Journalism. This includes posts about our keynote conversation between Irin Carmon and Megan Twohey about #MeToo and investigative journalism, as well as Peggy Noonan and Lesley Stahl’s reflections on breaking into the male-dominated field of journalism during the 1970s and our panel examining the history of the “Women’s Pages.”

Fearless Girl with jabot, 2020. Jennifer M. Mason/Shutterstock.

Women at the Center also highlighted our other exhibitions and new museum acquisitions on women’s history. We explained how we adapted the traveling exhibition Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on view through January 23, 2022, to emphasize RBG’s connection to her hometown, New York City. Because our exhibition underscores how deeply RBG was influenced by Pauli Murray, we dove into the life story of this critical figure in the legal history of civil and women’s rights. We also unpacked the complicated histories behind our special installation, Milk: Life, Death, and Women’s Work, which examines infant feeding at the turn of the 20th century. We also wrote about comedian Moms Mabley, featured in the exhibition, The Gift of Laughter. Our posts also explored new acquisitions, including Lady Pink’s large graffiti mural celebrating the vote and materials related to Alison Saar’s monument to Harriet Tubman, Swing Low.

Nellie Tayloe Ross was the first woman governor in the U.S., serving Wyoming from 1925-1927. She won a special election by 8,000 votes after her husband, the prior governor, died of appendicitis. Bain News Service, ca. 1915-1920. Library of Congress.

The past year was a banner year for women in politics, with a historic number of women elected to Congress and breaking numerous other political glass ceilings. Deb Haaland became the first Native American to serve on the Cabinet, and Kathy Hochul became the first woman to serve as governor of New York state, prompting the Center for Women’s history to reflect on the history of women governors. We also saw that our readers have been enthusiastically and consistently drawn to our past posts about women’s political history, especially related to the centennial of the 19th Amendment. Essays about the official colors of suffrage and the persistent obstacles to women’s access to vote have garnered continued readership, as have posts about Indigenous and Black women’s political activism.

William Davis Hassler, 1916. Patricia D. Klingenstein Library, New-York Historical Society

Our team also uses Women at the Center to showcase our team’s original research and spotlight objects in New-York Historical’s collections. From tracing the life of Seneca Villager Eliza Webster and diving into the history behind an unusual photograph of women and girls in Chinatown, to honoring the extraordinary beadwork of Indigenous artist, Caroline Parker, the stories we uncover contribute to a more inclusive historical narrative that takes women’s, and particularly women of color’s, contributions into account.

As we head into 2022, the Center for Women’s History is looking forward to continuing to discover and amplify women’s history!

Written by Anna Danziger Halperin, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in Women’s History and Public History, Center for Women’s History

Top image: Bernard Gotfryd, Fireworks over the Brooklyn Bridge, 1983. Library of Congress.

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