My story is the nation’s story.

Who are these women? Do you know their stories and the contributions they made? We invite you to learn about them and how the Smithsonian honors their legacies. 

Julia Child poses in her kitchen, mid-laugh
I made a mess in the kitchen.
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Julia Child

Chef, Entrepreneur, TV Personality, Author

I WAS 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.

The kitchen is the beating heart of the house. All you really need is a kitchen, bedroom and office.

We called my show "The French Chef" because it fit on one line in the TV Guide. We filmed in my kitchen. Anyone who has been in the kitchen knows that awful things can happen. If you cook, you have to make do. Cooking is a kind of a drama. You start with nothing, then you end up with something to eat.

Familiar to millions who watched her Emmy Awardwinning show, Julia Child’s kitchen is at the Smithsonian. It will be used to tell her story and other women’s stories about daring to try something new and succeeding.


Photo: Julia Child in her kitchen in France. © Marc Riboud, Magnum Photos

Content: Emily Rooney interview with Julia Child, 2001, WGBH 

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Sylvia Earle
I swam against the current.
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Sylvia Earle

Marine Biologist

I tagged along on dives in the Weeki Wachee River in Florida in the 1950s. I borrowed a helmet from a next-door neighbor. 

I am a witness, an observer of natural systems. The reduction of life in the sea is one of the great changes I have seen. Ninety percent of the big fish, and the small ones too, have disappeared in half a century. 

When people ask, “How do you want your tuna?” I say I want them alive. Every tuna counts. And maybe actions I take can secure a future where we both can be here together. 

Sylvia Earle’s research samples are at the Smithsonian. They will be used to tell her story and other women’s stories of understanding and co-existing with nature. 


Photo: Sylvia Earle diving at Cabo Pulmo, Mexico, Mission Blue © Kip Evans 

Content: Laura Hambleton interview with Sylvia Earle, 2018, Smithsonian

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A young Sandra Day O'Connor obscured by a palm tree
I wore my robe to work.
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Sandra Day O'Connor

Supreme Court Justice

I WAS IN my office in Arizona when the phone rang. It was President Ronald Reagan. “Sandra, I’d like to announce your appointment tomorrow to the Supreme Court. Is that okay with you?” From that day on my life changed.

As the first female justice, I didn’t have a choice of robes. Most of what was available was a choir or academic robe. I brought my judicial robe from Arizona.

No one made collars for women. The only place I could find them was in Europe. I did manage to get one or two from France.

Sandra Day O’Connor’s robe, worn at her swearing-in, is at the Smithsonian. It will be used to tell her story and other women’s stories of blazing new trails.


Photo: Sandra Day O’Connor ducks behind a potted plant before making a statement to reporters after she was named to the United States Supreme Court, September 15, 1981, AP Images PHOTO DENNIS COOK

Content: Terry Gross, Fresh Air, WHYY, March 5, 2013 Jan Smith, interview with Sandra Day O’Connor, 2015. National Portrait Gallery; Sandra Day O’Connor Explores Supreme Court History, Inner Workings, PBS NewsHour, April 4, 2013

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Wilma Mankiller
I led my nation.
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Wilma Mankiller

Principal Chief, Cherokee Nation

IN BELL, OKLAHOMA, 25 percent of people didn’t have indoor plumbing and lived in dilapidated conditions. We proposed they build a waterline and rehab their houses, as volunteers. We’d supply the technical engineering. 

Most were on welfare; people said they’d never show up. They showed up. 

We proved that Cherokee values were alive. I was trying to encourage our people to trust their thinking again, to look to themselves for solutions. 

I want to be remembered as the person who helped indigenous people restore faith in themselves. 

Wilma Mankiller’s memoir is at the Smithsonian. It will be used to tell her story and other women’s stories of inspiring her people and leading a nation. 


Photo: Courtesy of Wilma Mankiller Foundation

Content: Dick Pryor interview with Wilma Mankiller, OETA, 2008

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