Women's History

Before the critical 1965 Supreme Court ruling Griswold v. Connecticut, state and federal morality laws prohibited access to contraceptives, even to married couples (above: a picketer protests the opening of a new Planned Parenthood Center in New Haven, Connecticut).

The Revolutionary 1965 Supreme Court Decision That Declared Sex a Private Affair

A Smithsonian curator of medicine and science looks back to the days when police could arrest couples for using contraception

As recent archival finds and reappraisals of well-known documents show, Liss forged her own path to freedom—and may have even spied on the British while doing so.

Women Who Shaped History

Did an Enslaved Woman Try to Warn the Americans of Benedict Arnold's Treason?

New research sheds light on Liss, who was enslaved by the family of a Culper Spy Ring leader and had ties to British spymaster John André

Demonstrators at a pro-choice march in April 1989

History of Now

In 1973, a Leak at the Supreme Court Broke News of an Imminent Ruling on Roe v. Wade

Nearly 50 years later, a similar disclosure revealed that the court is poised to overturn legalized abortion in the U.S.

At the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery, the story of the Watergate whistleblower Martha Mitchell (detail, oil on canvas, Jan De Ruth, 1970) from Pine Bluff, Arkansas—who pundits dubbed the "Mouth of the South"—is revisited in a new exhibition, "Watergate: Portraiture and Intrigue."

Martha Mitchell Was the Brash 'Mouth of the South' That Roared

A portrait reveals the dignity behind the maligned woman who stepped up to tell the truth

Singer-songwriter Loretta Lynn was applauded—and sometimes banned—for her daring songs about women's lives. 

Country Legend Loretta Lynn Braved Controversy to Tell the Truth About Women's Experiences

On her 90th birthday, the self-taught singer-songwriter is donating personal items to the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

NPS Ranger Betty Reid Soskin sits in front of the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Center.

Women Who Shaped History

Betty Reid Soskin, Oldest National Park Service Ranger, Retires at 100

As an NPS employee, she promoted the stories of African American people and women of color who contributed to the home front effort during WWII

Virginia Union University is one of the rare HBCUs in America that can tie its origins to a Black woman: Mary Lumpkin.

Women Who Shaped History

The Enslaved Woman Who Liberated a Slave Jail and Transformed It Into an HBCU

Forced to bear her enslaver's children, Mary Lumpkin later forged her own path to freedom

The Queen's Ball, a ticketed experience from Netflix tied to the second season of "Bridgerton," is just one example of modern audiences' enthusiasm for the Regency era.

Based on a True Story

Why Are Regency-Era Shows Like 'Bridgerton' So Popular?

An Austen expert and a period drama TV critic reflect on the enduring appeal of romance series set in turn-of-the-19th-century England

It’s shocking how many everyday inventions we use without acknowledging the inventors that helped bring them to us.

Innovation for Good

Five Women Inventors You Didn't Learn About in History Class

These innovators pioneered word processing, launched Americans into space and more

A western-style performance outfit worn by Patsy Cline and sewed by her mother. The suit features record-shaped patches stitched with the titles of some of Cline's records.


 

Women Who Shaped History

When Patsy Cline Broke Through as a Country Music Phenom

The recording star sported a homemade suit as spectacular as her voice

Kate Warne was the Pinkerton National Detective Agency's first woman operative. She died in 1868 at age 34 or 35.

Women Who Shaped History

How Kate Warne, America's First Woman Detective, Foiled a Plot to Assassinate Abraham Lincoln

In February 1861, the Pinkerton agent, posing as the disguised president-elect's sister and caregiver, safely escorted him to Baltimore

Eileen McSaveney (left) and Terry Tickhill (right) use a hand augur to drill Lake Vanda, Wright Valley, Antarctica, during the 1969-1970 field season. Water collected during this effort was used to date the lake.

Ten Pioneering Women of Antarctica and the Places Named for Them

These coves, peaks, glaciers and other landmarks honor female explorers and scientists who have contributed to our understanding of the continent

Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 23, 2022.

Women Who Shaped History

Meet the Black Women Judges Who Paved the Way for Ketanji Brown Jackson

Jane Bolin, Constance Baker Motley and Julia Cooper Mack laid the groundwork for the Supreme Court nominee

A 1997 photo of Madeleine Albright, who died at age 84 on March 23, 2022

Madeleine Albright on Her Life in Pins

In 2010, the former secretary of state reflected on her famous collection of brooches and pins

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion stands at attention during an inspection in England in 1945.

All-Black, All-Woman WWII Unit Awarded Congressional Gold Medal

The 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion cleared a six-month backlog of mail while stationed in Europe in 1945

Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Why Born Enslaved!, 1873

A Bold New Show at the Met Explores A Single Sculpture

The exhibition probes the paradoxes of Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux's "Why Born Enslaved!," the most famous depiction of a Black woman in 19th-century art

Alice Ball was just 23 years old when she developed a method of making chaulmoogra oil—an early treatment for leprosy—more easily injectable.

Women Who Shaped History

The Trailblazing Black Woman Chemist Who Discovered a Treatment for Leprosy

After Alice Ball's death in 1916 at age 24, a white man took credit for her research

Lucille Ball in 1938

Women Who Shaped History

Who Was the Real Lucille Ball?

"I Love Lucy" is having a moment—but we're still not ready to see its star and creator clearly

The only reference to 355 appears in an August 15, 1779, letter: “I intend to visit 727 [Culper code for New York] before long and think by the assistance of a 355 [lady in the code] of my acquaintance, shall be able to outwit them all.”

Women Who Shaped History

The Myth of Agent 355, the Woman Spy Who Supposedly Helped Win the Revolutionary War

A single reference in the historical record has spawned an array of adaptations, most of which overstate the anonymous figure's role in the Culper Spy Ring

Unlike St. Patrick, St. Brigid was actually born in Ireland.

Meet St. Brigid, Ireland's Only Woman Patron Saint

The fifth-century abbess is stepping out of the shadow of the better-known St. Patrick

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