Representation matters. Who we see on screen and on stage, and who we hear on recordings, shapes our understanding of the world. Trailblazing women entertainers, including musicians, dancers, comedians, actors, and other performers, shattered stereotypes and gender norms to redefine who could tell stories in America. Many entertainers used their celebrity to actively change society.

Celia Cruz celebrated her Cuban American identity as one of the first women salsa singers. Mincy, a student, speaks with Ariana A. Curtis, curator at our National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Collection Objects

Learn the stories behind these featured objects or explore more entertaining women in the collections.

Conversation Kit

Let's Talk! Dolores del Río Conversation Kit

Grades 6–12. Time: Variable (1–3 class periods). Aligned to CCSS and C3 standards.

In this lesson plan, students will learn how the legacy of Dolores del Río, the first major Latinx actress in Hollywood, can help us reflect on how various cultures affect our identity.


Women and Folk

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Gender discrimination and segregation has often posed a considerable barrier for women musicians, but women have overcome these obstacles either via direct protest or by simply performing certain instruments or songs. In addition, the topic matter of the music has also been used to further women's rights and other political and social causes. When women in the United States earned the right to vote in 1920, the lyrics of traditional hymns and patriotic anthems were changed to assert their demands for suffrage. Listen to a small sample of Smithsonian Folkways folk music created by and about these brave and daring women.