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. 

Joan Trumpauer's mug shot from Jackson, MS
I spoke out.
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Joan Trumpauer

Freedom Fighter

I WAS put on death row at age 19 in Mississippi along with other Freedom Riders. The idea was to intimidate us because Parchman Penitentiary was a notorious, awful prison.

I had been taught to do unto others as I would have them do unto me and that all people were created equal. Segregation was wrong and I had to do something about it. I had protested in many sit-ins and picket lines before the Freedom Rides. The most violent protest was at the Jackson Woolworth lunch counter, which galvanized Martin Luther King’s 1963 March on Washington.

Joan Trumpauer’s mug shot and ticket stub to Alabama are at the Smithsonian. They will be used to tell her story and other women’s stories of courage and fighting for your beliefs.


Photo: Joan Trumpauer, mug shot taken by the City of Jackson (MS) Police Department, 1961

Content: An Ordinary Hero: The True Story of Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, documentary, 2013; John Dittmer interview with Joan Trumpauer, Library of Congress, 2017

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Mary Church Terrell portrait
I was a step ahead.
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Mary Church Terrell

Suffragist, Civil Rights Leader

COLORED WOMEN have always had high aspirations for themselves and their race. From the day when shackles fell from their fettered limbs till today, as individuals they have often struggled single handed and alone against the most desperate and discouraging odds.

But it dawned upon them finally that individuals working alone would accomplish little compared with the possible achievements of many individuals, banded strongly together throughout the entire land, with heads and hearts fixed on the same purpose.

Mary Church Terrell’s portraits are at the Smithsonian. They will be used to tell her story and other women’s stories about the struggle for equal rights.


Photo: Scurlock Studio Records, Mary Church Terrell, ca. 1935 –1940. Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Content: Mary Church Terrell, A Colored Women in a White World, unpublished manuscript, ca. 1940, Library of Congress

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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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