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National Museum of Women in the Arts

Updated on February 28, 2013

What is the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA)

The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) is located in Washington DC and it exists to recognise the artistic achievements of contemporary women artists and women artists throughout history. The museum is actively engaged in researching, aquiring and promoting the work of women artists of all ethnicities from all over the world, nationally and internationally.

What is the Mission of the National Museum of Women in the Arts?

According to the website, the mission of the NMWA is to address the obvious lack of balance in the art world with regard to gender. At the time of writing, figures on the website for the NMWA suggest that of all art shown across the whole of the United States, only five per cent of it was made by women. The museum seeks to address this balance in the States and across the world by carrying out its functions. According to the website, the NMWA currently:


  • Holds 10 prominent, world class exhibitions showcasing women artists every year.
  • Has a library and research centre which houses more than 18,000 volumes just on women in art.
  • Offers education to the public regarding the history of art with emphasis on women in art.
  • Publishes books on art history
  • Is the sponsor of a network of 20 plus international committees all dedicated to promoting women in art.

History of the National Museum of Women in the Arts

The museum was founded by Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and and her husband Wallace F. Holladay in 1981. As academics and art historians, the couple had been collecting art since the 1960's. Around that time, academics had just started to confront the notion that women and ethnic minority groups were severely under-represented in the major collections and exhibitions of the art world. The couple felt so passionately about the subject that for the next 20 years, they faithfully collected art work by women.

The museum actually started out in 1980 as a private not for profit museum in the early eighties. Visitors could see the collection of Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and and her husband Wallace F. Holladay at their private residence. The museum was operated in this way for the first five years. The building where it is permanently housed is an old masonic building which was purchased in 1983. The building was refurbished to very high standards and officially opened in 1987 with the exhibition, "American Women Artists, 1830-1930." The inaugural exhibition was curated by prominent feminist art historian, Dr Eleanor Hufts.

Artist Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo. 1907 -1954
Frida Kahlo. 1907 -1954 | Source

National Museum of Women in the Arts Collection

More than 4000 pieces of art by almost 1000 artists are represented in the museums collection. The collection includes work by artists going back to the 17th century. Notable artists within the collection include:


  • Frida Kahlo,
  • Elaine de Kooning,
  • Chakaia Booker,
  • Angelica Kauffmann,
  • Käthe Kollwitz,
  • Lee Krasner,
  • Justine Kurland,
  • Bettye Lane,
  • Marie Laurencin,
  • Hung Liu,
  • Judith Leyster,
  • Maria Martinez,
  • Maria Sibylla Merian,
  • Joan Mitchell,
  • Gabriele Münter,
  • Elizabeth Murray,
  • Alice Neel,
  • Louise Nevelson,
  • #Sarah Miriam Peale,
  • Clara Peeters,
  • Lilla Cabot Perry,
  • Jaune Quick-to-See Smith,
  • Rachel Ruysch,
  • Elisabetta Sirani
  • Joan Snyder.

National Museum of Women in the Arts Exhibitions and Events

More than 200 world lass exhibitions have taken place at the museum since its official opening in 1987. Notable exhibitions include:


  • Frida Kahlo. Public image, Private Life. A selection of photographs and letters from the artists life. 2007.
  • WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution, 2007.
  • Paula Rego 2008
  • Role Models, Feminine identity in Contemporary American Photography
  • Nikki de Saint Phalle. New York Sculpture Project 2010
  • ‘A World Apart: Anna Ancher and the Skagen Art Colony’ 2013


National Museum of Women in Art Address

A marker1250 New York Ave NW Washington, D.C. 20005 -
1250 New York Avenue Northwest, Washington, DC 20005, USA
get directions

National Museum of Women in the Arts Visitor Fees and Location

The museum is free to all visitors on the first Saturday of every month and free for under 18's and over 65's. Adults pay $10 and students pay $8. The museum is open Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sundays noon–5 p.m.


The address of the museum is 1250 New York Avenue and H Street N.W with the closet metro stations being McPherson Square or Metro Centre.




The Maids by Paula Rego

Paula Rego - The Maids (1987).
Paula Rego - The Maids (1987). | Source

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