Published: March 8, 2017
NEW YORK CITY — The New-York Historical Society inaugurates the new Center for Women’s History with a special exhibition showcasing the hidden contributions of women who helped to build and secure the fledgling democracy of early America. On view in the Joyce B. Cowin Women’s History Gallery from March 8 through July 28, “Saving Washington” highlights the role of First Lady Dolley Madison. Featuring more than 150 objects and artifacts in an immersive installation, the exhibition brings visitors back to the period between the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812, and beyond. A highlight of the transformed fourth floor of the museum, this exhibition illustrates the new center’s mission to reveal the often-overlooked stories of women who impacted American history.
“Much is known about the Founding Fathers and their contributions to the origins of our nation, but as we approach the opening of the Center for Women’s History, we are keen to emphasize the role of our Founding Mothers,” said Valerie Paley, New-York Historical vice president and chief historian, director of the Center for Women’s History and the exhibition’s curator. “In ‘Saving Washington,’ we look at how female influence, namely that of Dolley Madison, but also less-famous as well as completely unknown women of her generation, had a lasting impact on how political goals were achieved in the first half-century of the country.”
Exploring the tenuousness of early American democracy, “Saving Washington” recasts the traditional Founding Fathers narrative to focus on the less-examined contributions of women whose behind-the-scenes and largely overlooked efforts helped develop the young nation and realize the Constitution “on the ground.” During the dawn of the American Republic, how could a woman be a political agent? In spite of laws restricting their broader participation, elite and non-elite women alike sought various avenues for empowerment and activism.
The exhibition features artworks, books, documents, clothing, jewelry, and housewares within immersive installations evoking Dolley Madison’s famous “Wednesday night squeezes,” her popular social gatherings that drew a wide range of people to “squeeze” into the president’s mansion and encouraged informal diplomacy.
The New-York Historical Society is at 170 Central Park West. For information, www.nyhistory.org, or 212-873-3400.
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