National Museum of Women in the Arts

National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington, D.C., established in 1987. Washington-area philanthropist and art collector Wilhelmina Cole Holladay (1922-2021) was the driving force behind the creation of this museum that was initially based on her personal collection of work by women artists. Having studied art history in college, she began collecting artwork soon after wedding architect/developer Wallace F. Holladay. When they realized that women were underrepresented in most major collections, the couple decided to specialize in work by women, eventually gathering together 500 works by 150 artists. Disturbed by the lack of recognition for women’s art, Holladay open her own home as an informal museum in the ‘70s, and then began fundraising for a permanent site for her collection. With connections among the city’s elite, she was able to raise enough money to purchase a historic building that had once been a Masonic Temple in 1983. Located in an undeveloped neighborhood north and east of the D.C. train station, the museum’s opening exhibit in April 1987 was “American Women Artists, 1830-1930.” In 1997, a new wing was opened to enlarge the display space, reception area, and gift shop. The museum has become a major force advocating for women in art, and its collection has grown to encompass the work of over 1000 artists, with volunteer committees in 27 states and 10 countries, and a staff of over 30 people. Its Betty Body Dettre Library and Research Center provides scholars with a large collection of material related to women in the arts, and holds The Nelleke Nix and Marianne Huber Collection: The Frida Kahlo Papers, which includes over 350 unpublished letters related to the artist.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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