Women’s history shrine donates trove of artifacts to Library of Congress and National Park Service

Kirsten Hammerstrom pulled out the cabinet drawer, opened the flat box and unfolded the thin conservation paper to find what she was looking for: two century-old gray ribbons bearing the inscription “Woman’s Movement for Constructive Peace.”



a group of people standing in front of a sign: This photograph shows a National Woman's Party booth at the North Arizona Fair in Arizona in 1916. The photo is one of many artifacts the National Woman’s Party is donating to the federal government. (Library of Congress)


This photograph shows a National Woman’s Party booth at the North Arizona Fair in Arizona in 1916. The photo is one of many artifacts the National Woman’s Party is donating to the federal government. (Library of Congress)

Each had a tarnished star fixed to the fabric, and Hammerstrom turned it over to show how the star was attached. “A great big safety pin,” she said, “which is kind of funny.”

“They would pin to your shoulder, and the star would glitter,” she said.

The pin and ribbon had been harnessed more than 100 years ago in the fight by American women to secure a public voice and, finally, in 1920 the right to vote. Now they were being donated to the government, along with hundreds of thousands of other artifacts from the early women’s rights movement.

The National Woman’s Party said earlier this month that it was donating a large collection of artifacts, many from the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington, to the Library of Congress and the National Park Service.

The monument, a 220-year-old federal style brick mansion at 144 Constitution Ave. NE, has been home to the party since 1929, and the repository of memorabilia from the early struggle for women’s rights.

The artifacts are “the materials that the National Woman’s party and its predecessor organization, the Congressional Union, assembled as their work, as part of how they demonstrated, how they fought for women’s rights,” said Hammerstrom, the site’s collections manager.

The suffragists beaten and tortured for demanding the vote outside the White House

“There are hundreds of banners and dozens of sashes, flags, all kinds of things,” she said. “I have lost contact of how many boxes I have processed. … I think it’s 16 or 17 pallets of material that was gifted to the Library of Congress, doubling the size of their collection.”

The library already holds many of the party’s papers, but the donation will add 310,000 documents, 100 scrapbooks, 4,500 photographs, 750 volumes of periodicals and 2,400 books, dating back to the 1860s.



a sign on the side of a bottle: A “Mr. President What Will You Do for Woman Suffrage” banner was painted on cotton sateen. The banner was carried by National Woman's Party members when they picketed the White House in 1917. It is one of the artifacts that the NWP is donating to the federal government. (Library of Congress)


A “Mr. President What Will You Do for Woman Suffrage” banner was painted on cotton sateen. The banner was carried by National Woman’s Party members when they picketed the White House in 1917. It is one of the artifacts that the NWP is donating to the federal government. (Library of Congress)



text: This photograph shows Mary Winsor of Pennsylvania. Winsor was arrested twice, the first time on Sept. 4, 1917, during Draft Day festivities holding a “Draft Day” banner, which questioned why women had no voice in the government that was conscripting their sons. (Library of Congress)


This photograph shows Mary Winsor of Pennsylvania. Winsor was arrested twice, the first time on Sept. 4, 1917, during Draft Day festivities holding a “Draft Day” banner, which questioned why women had no voice in the government that was conscripting their sons. (Library of Congress)

“Some parts of the collection are very fragile,” said Elizabeth Novara, the American women’s history specialist in the library’s manuscript division. “It’s over a hundred years

Elise By Olsen, a Millennial Who Seriously Believes in Print, Founds a Fashion Library

At 21, Elise By Olsen has racked up more accomplishments and flight miles than people double her age. She began publishing her own youth culture magazine at 13, becoming something like Norway’s answer to Tavi Gevinson. After putting Recens Paper aside, she debuted the small-format magazine, Wallet. Today, Olsen is launching her most ambitious project to date: the International Library of Fashion Research.

This collection consists of all sorts of printed matter, everything from show invites to rare books, and it will chart the history of fashion from 1970 forward. It’s home base is Oslo, but as the scope of the project is international, and Olsen generally spends 10 months out of 12 on the road, it has the potential to travel, and the founder says she is open to rethinking what an institution, or library, can be today.

Olsen thinks of herself as more of an entrepreneur and a media person more than a fashion one, per se: “I feel like I have one foot in, one foot out. I like to create businesses and companies and publish publications and fashion has been like the filter for that… but that is a coincidence. It could have been anything,” she said on a recent Zoom chat. The International Library of Fashion Research is much more than a business proposition, though; it’s a passion project built upon an gift from Olsen’s mentor of many years, the self-described “brand author and identity designer” and the cultural theorist Steven Mark Klein (known also as the “architect of influence” or “freelance outlaw”), which he presented her when he decided to retire.

As Klein’s instructions were to guard and grow the collection, the first thing Olsen needed to do was find a space for it, and she has been given room on the campus of the National Museum. The digital institution is accessible to the public starting today. According to Olsen the library offers a “maximized digital experience,” but not one that tries to mimic reality. “Especially during COVID,” she notes, there’s been so much [that’s gone] digital, I just feel really saturated online.” To that end collaborative programs are being designed. One of the questions Olsen asked herself while developing this project was: “How can we create a library that, yes, guards the past, but also creates conversations for the future? Something that my generation would want to interact with?”

From New York City…

Olsen absolutely refutes the generally held ideas that print is dead and that millennials are “a non-literate generation” that “have completely digital lives.” She also rejects the idea that Norwegians give no thought to fashion. The fact that Oslo is, in her words, “decentralized” and “off-the-grid” she sees as being a plus.

… to Oslo.

The pandemic has revealed not only an insatiable appetite for