Music HerStory

Women and Music of Social Change

From our earliest musical encounters to the formation of complex social identities, the American musical landscape wouldn’t be what it is today without the countless contributions of women changemakers, groundbreakers, and tradition-bearers. Women’s leadership in music and social change is central to the American story. Music HerStory explores these contributions through unique media collections from across the Smithsonian.

Black and white photograph of Mahalia Jackson performing beside a church altar.

Mahalia Jackson, around 1960
Courtesy of the National Museum of African American History and Culture
© Estate of Lloyd W. Yearwood

Visit the Exhibition

Through February 20, 2024
Hours: 10:00 AM - 5:30 PM
(summer hours may vary)

Smithsonian Libraries Gallery
Smithsonian National Museum of American History, 1 West
14th St and Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

Organized by

Smithsonian Libraries & ArchivesSmithsonian Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage

Curated by

Meredith Holmgren
Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Designed, edited, and produced by

Smithsonian Exhibits

ack and white photograph of Jean Ritchie outdoors with dulcimers, from Ritchie’s book Dulcimer People, 1975.

Jean Ritchie’s Dulcimer People
Jean Ritchie
New York, 1975

Black and white photograph of the Fisk Jubilee Singers from The Story of the Jubilee Singers: With Their Songs, 1880.

Tradition-Bearers

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Photograph of Big Mama Thornton singing and Buddy Guy playing guitar, taken by Chris Strachwitz, 1960. © Arhoolie Foundation.

Groundbreakers

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Black and white photograph of Barbara Dane with her guitar in 1965, taken by Diana Jo Davies.

Changemakers

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Photograph of Cris Williamson singing and playing guitar at the Newport Folk Festival in 1992, taken by Diana Jo Davies.

Industry Professionals

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Music HerStory Playlist