Exploring the Lives and Legacies of Women who Shaped History

Steve Adubato goes One-on-One with Valerie Paley, PhD, Director of the Center for Women's History, to talk about how the center is the first of its kind in the nation within the walls of a major museum at the New-York Historical Society.

6/20/19 #2227






"One on One is pleased to welcome Valerie Paley, who is Director of the Center for Women's History at the New-York Historical Society. Good to see you Valerie. Nice to see you too. Tell folks what it is and why it matters so much more than ever now. The New-York Historical Society is the oldest museum in New York City. But what I direct is the newest initiative within the walls of a major museum, and that is the Center for Women's History. Imagine this. There is no such center like it in the United States, and it only opened two years ago. Let's do this. We're gonna run some pictures of different women. Do me a favor Georgette. Could we, in fact, put up some of those pictures and I'll let Valerie talk about why these women are, in fact, featured at the Historical Society of Women's History? Who do you got first? Dolley Madison? People hear Dolley Madison, but why is she so important to our history? Well I think, when you think of Dolley Madison, you think of maybe ice cream? That's right. Or the idea of the hostess with the mostest. But in fact she has been given short shrift in the historical narrative insofar as she was deeply political, and without her, James Madison couldn't have succeeded the way he did. So our exhibition, which was the inaugural exhibition two years ago, it was called Saving Washington. Partly because Dolley Madison saved the portrait of Washington during the War of 1812, but really more because Dolley and women like her, wealthy, not wealthy, made the Constitution work on the ground. They saved this aspirational notion, which was Washington, in the early 19th century. How much of the Suffrage Movement? How much is that a part of the exhibit? Well, you know, what we do is partly exhibition work, but we also do a whole lot of other things. We do public programs. Describe it. We do K-12 curriculum in women's history. We do a collecting program. Billie Jean King has given us her archive, which is a real thrill for us. We also have great scholarly fellows working in this program. So it's not just an exhibit. It's a whole center and a suite of activities around women's history, and making women's history mainstream for the public. But I'm curious. In the age of the Me Too movement, and a much... look we're... people who are running for president right now, there are a fair number of women, there are more women in Congress than ever before... not enough. Now more than ever? In a way. Yes. I mean it's..."