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Bringing the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum to Life

Lisa Sasaki stands in front of the U.S. capitol

Photo of Lisa Sasaki, Interim Director of the Smithsonian American Women's History Museum, by Emmanuel Mones

By Lisa Sasaki, Interim Director of the Smithsonian American Women's History Museum


Women have contributed to America's most defining moments—times that shaped constitutional rights, yielded scientific breakthroughs, and created the symbols of our nation. Yet a diversity of women's stories has not been widely told.

That's why I am thrilled that on December 27, 2020, Congress enacted legislation to create the Smithsonian American Women's History Museum in the nation's capital. This year, Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III named me interim director of the forthcoming museum.

After more than 25 years of experience working in museums, most recently as Director of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, it's a dream to start a museum from the ground up. Nothing is more important than recognizing women's history. With the new museum, we want to ensure that stories of women from all walks of life are told. Sharing these diverse perspectives will shine a light on what it means not just to be a woman in America, but to be an American.

Black and white photo of fifteen women, with a variety of skin tones, standing in two rows
Elected members of the Smithsonian Institution Women's Council. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 371, Box 02, Folder: December 1975, Image No. 75-14850-05

Today we announced members of the Smithsonian American Women's History Museum advisory council. Our council advises Smithsonian and Museum leadership in multiple areas, including making recommendations on the location, planning, design, and construction of the museum. They also help with private fundraising and provide for the maintenance of the museum's future collections. The founding council members come from different backgrounds and industries, but they each possess the same passion for gender equity and uplifting women's voices. They have broken barriers and shattered expectations—on the tennis court, on the screen, in the courtroom, and in boardrooms—making them uniquely qualified to lead a new museum that aims to do the same.

We are still in the earliest stages of creating the new museum. Based on the Smithsonian's experience building museums, we estimate it will be at least a decade before physical buildings are open to the public. Still, we cannot and will not wait to tell women's stories. Our American Women's History Initiative continues to share women's history in partnership with the Smithsonian's other 20 museums and cultural centers. Since its creation in 2018, the Initiative creates, disseminates, and amplifies the historical record of the accomplishments of American women to create a more equitable American society. Just this week, we welcomed Dr. Tey Marianna Nunn as the director of the American Women's History Initiative.

I encourage you to get involved as we work toward the next milestones for the Smithsonian American Women's History Museum. You can  to hear the latest news about the forthcoming museum and notable women's history projects across the Smithsonian. You can also help us create the museum by donating today. Your donation will help us to lay the foundation for this museum that will inspire generations to come.

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