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A 1955 photograph of a women’s club from the Smithsonian collection. Photo: Smithsonian.
A 1955 photograph of a women’s club from the Smithsonian collection. Photo: Smithsonian.

Donors Pledge $55 Million to Smithsonian’s Forthcoming Museum of American Women

The Museum of American Women, the yet-to-be-built Smithsonian institution honoring the contributions of women and female-identifying persons, has received $55 million in promised gifts. The money will go toward program development and the production of digital content for the museum, which launched online after Congress passed legislation approving its creation, in December 2020. It will also help pay for design and construction costs for the museum’s physical incarnation, whose Washington, DC, location is still a subject of debate.

“Together, we will create a museum that celebrates the women who have helped build this country,” said Lisa Sasaki, the museum’s interim director, in a statement. “These donations are pivotal in the realization of this vision.” The institution’s scope is intended to be wide-ranging and multivalent, hewing to no single narrative but instead celebrating women from all walks of life.

“In most US history textbooks, women are described as playing supporting roles to men,” said former US secretary of commerce Penny Pritzker, founder and chair of donor PSP Partners, in a statement. “But we all know that women are not side notes in American history. We are innovators, educators, politicians and more. As chair of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum’s advisory council, I am proud of what this museum will add to the national conversation by recognizing women whose stories have gone unheard for far too long.”

“The stories we tell about our country’s history so often overlook the contributions of the women in every generation whose efforts and ideas helped make us who we are today,” said Melinda French Gates in a statement. Gate is cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and founder of Pivotal Ventures, both of which promised funding to the institution. “By paying tribute to the women who shaped our past,” Gates continued, “the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum empowers and inspires the ones who will shape our future.”