Nine Women’s History Stories from across the Smithsonian
Sharing American women's history is something Smithsonian museums and organizations do every day. But on the last Wednesday in January, our museums and Smithsonian Affiliates treated our social media audiences to stories of lesser-known women.
The result? We increased awareness of these women and their stories. More than 1,800 people across Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook used the hashtag #BecauseOfHerStory to talk about women's history.
With so many stories of women in sports, art, science, work, and more, it's hard to pick favorites! But here are a few we don't want you to miss.
1. Kittie Knox
Our Smithsonian Libraries shared this photo of bicylist Kittie Knox, who fought racial discrimination as an African American cyclist in the 1890s. She was involved in a lawsuit against a Boston cycling club that denied cyclists of color from entering a race. Her enthusiasm for cycling, despite difficulties, paved the way for future women and cyclists of color.
A post shared by Smithsonian Libraries (@silibraries) on Jan 29, 2020 at 9:28am PST
2. Concha Sanchez
Our National Museum of American History shared an apron used by businesswoman Concepción "Concha" Sanchez. Beginning in the 1920s, Sanchez supported her family by baking and selling tortillas. Her electric molino (corn mill) is also in their collection.
Concepción "Concha" Sanchez pulled this apron over her head when she made and sold tortillas in her neighborhood, Ventura County, CA. #BecauseOfHerStory— National Museum of American History (@amhistorymuseum) January 29, 2020
Discover Sanchez' story and the story of more women at work: https://t.co/lQQcobC6eK pic.twitter.com/5qyvRlEmuF
3. Mary Agnes Chase
Botanist Mary Agnes Chase, who specialized in studying grasses, worked for the Smithsonian. She had to finance many of her own expeditions to South America because funders would not support a woman. She also picketed the White House in 1918 and 1919 with fellow suffragists. Many of her specimens are in our National Museum of Natural History collection.
@Smithsonian botanist and suffragist Mary Agnes Chase (1869-1963) specialized in the study of grasses and conducted extensive field work in South America. Denied access to funded expeditions because she was a woman, Chase self-financed many of her own research trips in the early 20th century. In addition to her scientific explorations, she was among the women's suffrage demonstrators arrested for picketing the White House in 1918–1919, and she participated in the jailed suffragists' hunger strike. #BecauseOfHerStory
A post shared by Smithsonian's NMNH (@smithsoniannmnh) on Jan 29, 2020 at 9:51am PST
4. Hazel Dickens
Our Smithsonian Folkways featured one of the first women to perform bluegrass, Hazel Dickens. She inspired countless women singers and musicians, including her friend Alice Gerrard. Dickens and Gerrard perform together in this photo.
Hazel Dickens was a bluegrass performer at a time when the genre was dominated by men, and an advocate for women + workers. Along with Alice Gerrard, she empowered countless woman musicians to succeed without sacrificing integrity. #BecauseOfHerStory https://t.co/bbe53XWZmJ pic.twitter.com/GAHigomvbc— Smithsonian Folkways (@Folkways) January 29, 2020
5. Maria Oakley Dewing
The Smithsonian American Art Museum and Renwick Gallery shared this painting by Maria Oakey Dewing. Dewing once said "I must paint pictures or die." But she stopped painting in 1881, after she married a fellow artist. Like many other artistic couples at the time, Dewing was expected to take on different work as a wife and a mother.
6. Ruth Asawa
Our National Portrait Gallery shared artist Ruth Asawa's incarceration camp ID. Asawa was one of nearly 120,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese ancestry and Japanese nationals incarcerated by the U.S. government during World War II. Even after the war, Asawa faced prejudice that stopped her from being able to get a degree to teach art. She attended Black Mountain College instead, where she became interested in sculpture.
In 1942, while being held in an internment camp, Japanese American artist Ruth Asawa studied with professional artists who were also internees. A year later, she received a scholarship to train as an art teacher and would become a world-renowned sculptor. #BecauseOfHerStory pic.twitter.com/0Rw2v9AEqS— National Portrait Gallery (@smithsoniannpg) January 29, 2020
7. Belle Kogan
Prevailing against the view that women didn't know machinery, Belle Kogan (1902–2000) distinguished herself as one of the few American women industrial designers active during the founding years of the profession. More: https://t.co/cmOZHM9Ak3 #BecauseOfHerStory pic.twitter.com/c6lxH08ACS— Cooper Hewitt (@cooperhewitt) January 29, 2020
8. Mary Breckinridge
A post shared by National Postal Museum (@nationalpostalmuseum) on Jan 29, 2020 at 9:34am PST
9. Dr. Patricia Bath
Our Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation featured Dr. Patricia Bath. Bath invented a laser to remove cataracts, a cloudiness that forms in the lens of an eye that can cause distorted vision and blindness. This invention was just one of many achievements in a career breaking ground for women and African Americans in the medical profession.
Dr. Patricia Bath, trailblazer for women & African Americans in the medical profession, was an eye surgeon, professor of ophthalmology, inventor of the Laserphaco Probe, & founder of the American Institute for the Prevention of Blindness.#BecauseOfHerStory https://t.co/9V4m7Y5rP2 pic.twitter.com/gXQnRLKdVH— Lemelson Center (@SI_Invention) January 29, 2020
We invite you to explore more American women's history stories from the Smithsonian by searching the hashtag #BecauseOfHerStory on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Ruth Asawa incarceration camp ID, National Portrait Gallery.