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Historically, if you weren’t wealthy, white, and male, access to formal education was limited. That never stopped women and girls from striving to get as much education as possible. Teaching and learning at kitchen tables, in church basements, in one-room classrooms, and at Ivy League universities, women continue to use their agency to push for equal educational access. According to findings published by the Pew Research Center in June 2019, women are now half of the U.S. college-educated workforce.

Collection Objects

Learn about these featured stories or see more examples of education in our collections.

Betsey’s sampler includes three distinguishing features of Rhode Island samplers; trumpeting angels with embroidered faces, queen stitch flowers, and a three-story house.

Supporting Revolution with Needle and Thread

A skirt and blouse in a matching alphabetical print of blue, teal, and white on a black background.

A Brave Stand against Segregated Education at Little Rock Central High School

1876 Ellen Harding Baker's "Solar System" Quilt

Teaching the Solar System with a Quilt

Lego figurines of Margaret Hamilton, Katherine Johnson, Sally Ride, Nancy Grace Roman, and Mae Jemison.

Immortalizing NASA Women in LEGO® Minifigure Prototypes

This postcard shows a woman sitting on the observing chair in front of a large refracting telescope

Astronomer Maria Mitchell Mentored Women in Science

Mary McLeod Bethune stands in front of a painting of a house and palm trees.

Empowering Black Women through Education

Conversation Kit

Let's Talk! Juliette Gordon Low and the Girl Scouts Conversation Kit
Juliette Gordon Low and the Girl Scouts Teaching and Discussion Guide

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

In this lesson plan students will learn about Juliette Gordon Low's founding of the Girl Scouts in 1912 and how this helped change expectations of girls and their roles as community members and citizens. Students will examine the question: How can education change expectations of what girls can and should be?


The sisters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. fundraised to buy and distribute books throughout the segregated South to provide students with critical educational tools.

In 1961, Pantoja founded ASPIRA ("to strive" in Spanish), an organization dedicated to improving disproportionally low Latino high school graduation rates. ASPIRA won a landmark lawsuit in 1972 that mandated bilingual education in the New York City school system. Pantoja's efforts in education earned her the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1996.

As a teacher, Julia Child shared her love for culinary arts with the world.

Through their cookbooks, teaching, and television programs, these extraordinary women inspired generations of people to take cooking seriously. They challenged perceptions and stereotypes of women in their respective eras and made lasting contributions to culinary history.


Ella Jenkins, The First Lady of Children's Music

Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

Enjoy songs from groundbreaking children's performer Ella Jenkins.

Smithsonian American Women book cover.

Smithsonian American Women

Remarkable objects and stories of strength, ingenuity, and vision from the National Collection.

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