From the Executive Director features news and reflections on the work of PHMC by its chief administrator.

The Year of the Woman. How many times have we heard that? 1975. 1992. 2018. Yet, this year is a momentous one for Pennsylvania women. June 24, 2019, marks the 100th anniversary of the commonwealth’s ratification of the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution. The amendment, which would give women the right to vote, was adopted on August 18, 1920, making this a full year of celebration.

In honor of the centenary, PHMC has teamed with the Office of the First Lady, the Pennsylvania Commission for Women, the Distinguished Daughters of Pennsylvania, and the Pennsylvania Governor’s Residence to create Game Changers, an exhibit honoring remarkable Pennsylvania women who have made significant strides within the commonwealth over the last 100 years.

The women represented in the exhibit come from all walks of life and represent many fields of achievement — politics, law, art, social work, literature, music, science, the military, to name a few. Some, like Pearl Buck, Rachel Carson and Marian Anderson, are household names. Others, like Daisy Myers, Helen Richey and Grayce Uyehara, deserve to be better known.

Women have always been making change. Often though, they have not been the ones writing history and, like Fred Rogers’ early creative partner Josie Carey, have been overshadowed over time. (I should note, however, that Rogers always gave Carey credit for her contributions to his success.)

In fact, this trend continues today. According to a 2019 study, only 17.8 percent of individual Wikipedia biography entries are devoted to women. There are several reasons for this, but one of the primary ones is the fact that all entries must be “attributable to a reliable published source.” Because women have been less represented in the canon of remembrance — everything from literature to obituaries — it is not surprising this underrepresentation persists.

The Game Changers exhibit is a tiny step toward adding to the body of women we remember, but there is no way we could begin to address the number of women who have achieved great things in just two rooms. Through our collection development and current programs, including an upcoming exhibit about painter-suffragist Violet Oakley at The State Museum, a proactive Historical Marker Program initiative to discover more about women in history, and ongoing Pennsylvania Heritage articles highlighting women’s accomplishments, we intend to continue exploring their stories. We hope that the trend of noting the achievements of women continues. If so, at some point we will never need another Year of the Woman!

Andrea W. Lowery
Executive Director, PHMC