Girlhood (It’s Complicated) Exhibition



05/17/2021 11:00 am - 05/18/2023 4:00 pm




Constitution Avenue, NW
Between 12th and 14th Streets
Washington, D.C.

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While the nursery rhyme tells us that girls are “made of sugar and spice and everything nice,” history demonstrates that girls are made of stronger stuff.

While the nursery rhyme tells us that girls are “made of sugar and spice and everything nice, history demonstrates that girls are made of stronger stuff. Girlhood (It’s Complicated) opens Oct. 9 at the recently re-opened Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and showcases how girls have been on the frontlines of change and how they have made an impact on all aspects of American life. The exhibition is timed to coincide with the International Day of the Girl on Oct. 11.

Spanning a timeframe of more than 200 years and showcasing approximately 200 objects, including some never before seen artifacts, the exhibition examines the ways American girls, from Helen Keller to Minnijean Brown to Naomi Wadler, have spoken up, challenged expectations and used their voices to effect change. Among the highlights are an 1804 sampler stitched by 10-year-old Elizabeth Throckmorton, a makeup table from 1820, an 1850s gym suit, Helen Keller’s touch watch, the 1959 New York graduation dress worn by Brown, one of the Little Rock Nine, following her expulsion from Central High School and Isabella Aiukli Cornell’s 2019 red prom dress symbolizing her activism related to Indigenous women and decorated with tribal insignia representing her citizenship in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma.

Timed tickets are required.

Exhibition Website

Can’t visit in person? The exhibition’s companion website gives visitors the opportunity to experience many of the objects and stories featured in Girlhood, and offers the unique opportunity to explore a selection of historical artifacts as high-resolution, narrated 3D scans.