TRIP IDEA

Discovering Women’s History in Washington, DC

Photograph of the Vietnam Women\'s Memorial in Washington, DC
Duration Full Day
Topic(s) Archeology, Enslavement, Women's History, Sculpture, Military, Monuments and Memorials, Presidents, Scenic Views, Urban America, Wars and Conflicts, Vietnam War, American Revolution, Arts, Astronomy, African American Heritage, Architecture and Building, Reconstruction, Schools and Education, Social Movements
Activities Living History, Self-Guided Tours - Walking, Arts and Culture, Guided Tours
Type Kid Friendly, Active, Relaxed, Urban, Educational, Inspirational, Virtual, Indoors, Outdoors, Group Friendly

A group of women pose in front of the Capitol dome, circa 1918.
Munitions workers in Washington, DC, circa 1918. Women played an important role in making the ammunition needed to sustain the war effort during the First World War.

Photograph by Harris & Ewing. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Founded in 1791, Washington, DC has a long and rich history. Most notable for its monuments, memorials, and museums, the capital city was shaped by presidents, politicians, philanthropists, architects, soldiers, and more. As a result, the history of region is overwhelmingly associated with white men of privilege. But like the rest of the country, the history of DC is diverse and multifaceted.

Women of all different backgrounds also contributed to the social, political, and cultural vibrancy of the city. This Trip Idea explores some of the ways women acted as preservationists, service members, educators, and activists to shape the history of the capital and the country as a whole.

Spend a day exploring the historic sites of Washington, DC relating to women’s history. Some “must see” sites include the Belmont Paul Women’s Equality National Monument and the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House National Historic Site. This Trip Idea will also introduce you to historic places that may not intuitively seem connected to women’s history. Learn about the suffrage movement, the sacrifice women made during war time, and how women influenced the preservation of historic sites the metropolitan area.

Discover Women's History in Washington, DC
    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Self-Guided Tours - Walking
    • Pets: No
    • Location: National Mall and Memorial Parks
    • Duration: 1–2 Hours
    • Season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
    • Time of Day: Day, Dawn, Dusk
    Statue of two women caring for fallen soldier.

    The Vietnam Women’s Memorial is located on the National Mall, just north of the Reflecting Pool. The memorial was dedicated in 1993 and portrays two women caring for a fallen soldier.

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    • Activity Fee: Yes
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Arts and Culture
    • Pets: No
    • Duration: 2–3 Hours
    • Season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
    Colored photograph of Constitution Hall, circa 1980.

    Founded in 1890, the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is a nonprofit, apolitical organization of women. Members needed a national headquarters as well as a larger space to host their annual Continental Congress. They commissioned architect John Russell Hope to construct Constitution Hall in 1928.

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    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Self-Guided Tours - Walking
    • Pets: Yes
    • Duration: 1–3 Hours
    Black and white photo of the Mary Church Terrell house, circa 1933.

    In the late 1800s and early 1900s, DC was home to several notable African American activists, including Mary Ann Shadd Cary, Charlotte Forten Grimke, Mary Church Terrell, and Mary McLeod Bethune. Each woman fought for civil rights and eventually moved to Washington, DC to protest, lobby, and demand greater civil rights. Stroll around the northern part of the capital city and discover where these women lived as they fought for a more equal and just America.

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    • Activity Fee: Yes
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Guided Tours
    • Pets: No
    • Duration: 2–3 Hours
    • Season: Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall
    • Time of Day: Day
    Photograph of outside of Woodrow Wilson House with street in foreground.

    President Woodrow Wilson had a complicated relationship with the women’s suffrage movement, but his daughters were dedicated suffragists. His wives were also influential in bringing greater awareness about social issues of the day. Learn about the women in Wilson's life and how they helped shape American history.

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    • Activity Fee: Yes
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Living History
    • Pets: No
    • Duration: 1–2 Hours
    Color photo of exterior of Dumbarton House.

    The historic Dumbarton House was built around 1800. The National Society of Colonial Dames of America purchased the house in 1928 and preserved the mansion. It is now a museum and open to the public.

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    • Activity Fee: No (Entrance fees may apply)
    • Reservations: No
    • Activity: Self-Guided Tours - Walking
    • Pets: Yes
    • Duration: 1–2 Hours
    Black and white photo of the  Volta Bureau, circa 1933.

    Built in 1893, the Volta Laboratory and Bureau building served as a place for Alexander Graham Bell to test new technology to aid Deaf Americans. Learn about how the women in Graham Bell's life influenced his work.

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Last updated: June 26, 2018