The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, DC, announced today that it has received a $9 million bequest—the largest single gift in its history—from the estate of California businesswoman Madeleine Rast. The gift, which will bolster the museum’s endowment, coincides with the institution’s thirtieth anniversary.
“Madeleine was absolutely convinced of the importance of establishing a museum for women in the arts,” the museum’s founder, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay, said. “Her conviction never wavered and, over time, she became a steadfast advocate for our mission as well as a dear friend. Her generous gift to the museum will enable future generations to enjoy the highest standards of exhibitions and programs and help make us more visible throughout the world.”
Born in Zurich in 1924, Rast moved to California as a young woman and worked in various clerical positions while pursuing a degree in accounting. She eventually became a successful management auditor in both the private and public sectors, as well as a savvy investor. Throughout her career, Rast knew that she was denied the same opportunities as men working in her field, and she advocated for gender equality. Before she died on January 29, 2017, at the age of ninety-two, Rast told the museum, “Giving is a very personal act, but if you believe as strongly as I do in advancing the cause of women, then there’s no question about it.”
In 1993, after Rast informed the museum that she planned to create a charitable remainder trust, she stated, “The achievements of women artists of the past have generally been overlooked and ignored, yet many women persisted, developing their talents and producing magnificent works of art. Today’s artist still faces the same set of problems. She needs the time and place to develop her art. She needs a responsive audience also capable of constructive criticism. She needs a peer group for support and collaboration. And, yes, she needs recognition for her work.”
The National Museum of Women in the Arts is the world’s only major museum solely dedicated to celebrating the creative contributions of women. The museum champions women by collecting and exhibiting works by female artists and researching and developing programs that promotes gender equality. The museum’s collection includes more than five thousand works by more than one thousand women artists from the sixteenth century to the present.