Selections from a long-term exhibition at the California Museum that launched August 18, 2020. Developed in collaboration with California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the exhibition is divided into two sections. The second, presented here, highlights inspirational contemporary women.
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These women show that a woman’s place is anywhere she aims to go—from the halls of Congress to the frontiers of space.
Nancy Pelosi (2019) by John HarringtonOriginal Source: United States House of Representatives
Nancy Pelosi is the highest-ranking elected woman in U.S. history. She became the first woman to lead a party in Congress in 2003 and first served as Speaker from 2007 to 2011, achieving passage of the Affordable Care Act. In 2018, Democrats won control of Congress and made her Speaker again.
Janet Yellen (2015) by United States Federal ReserveOriginal Source: United States Federal Reserve
Janet Yellen was the first woman to chair the Federal Reserve ("the Fed"). As Fed vice chair from 2010-2014, she guided the nation out of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. While chair from 2014-2018, the U.S. unemployment rate fell while stock markets rose, by record numbers.
Sally Ride (1983) by NASAOriginal Source: NASA
In 1983, Sally Ride became the first American woman in space. A member of NASA's first astronaut class to include women, Ride flew two missions on the space shuttle Challenger. She went on to teach at UC San Diego and founded Sally Ride Science to inspire girls to pursue STEM skills.
Gutsy, visionary women have reached the top at major California companies. Others have founded their own firms. But they are still outnumbered in the boardroom.
Meg Whitman (2009) by Max MorseOriginal Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/megwhitman2010/4526448906/in/set-72157623745802855/
Meg Whitman became president of the online auction site eBay in 1998. Its website was a black and white page that crashed for 8 hours on her first day. She helped turn the company into a multinational e-commerce giant. She was the Republican candidate for governor of California in 2010.
Sherry Lansing (2007) by Lester CohenOriginal Source: Getty Images
Sherry Lansing is one of the most powerful women in Hollywood. In 1980, she became president of 20th Century Fox—and the first woman to lead a major studio. She was also CEO of Paramount Pictures' Motion Picture Group, which produced the hits Forrest Gump and Titanic.
Aileen Lee (2019) by Bread + ButterCalifornia Museum
In 2012 Aileen Lee founded one of the first venture capital firms led by a woman. Cowboy Ventures invests in small companies at the earliest stages of development. She also is a founder of All Raise, a nonprofit that encourages women and people of color to create technology companies.
Women are changing the face of power in our state, our nation, and our world. Their influence is growing, but their work is not done.
Tani Cantil-Sakauye (c. 2010s) by Supreme Court of CaliforniaCalifornia Museum
Tani Cantil-Sakauye is the first Filipinx American to serve as California’s chief justice. She worked as a prosecutor and a judge before being appointed to lead the state's Supreme Court in 2010. She has worked to reform the bail system, decriminalize minor offenses, and improve civic education.
Condoleezza Rice (2005) by Luke FrazzaOriginal Source: United States Department of State
Condoleezza Rice was the first African American woman U.S. secretary of state. In that role she sought to strengthen democratic governments around the world. She was also the first female national security advisor, and the first African American female provost of Stanford University.
March Fong Eu (c. 1980s) by unknown photographerOriginal Source: California State Archives
In 1966 March Fong Eu became the first Asian American woman in the California Assembly. She then became California’s first female Secretary of State - and the first Asian American elected to statewide office in the U.S. Reelected four times, she instituted improvements including registration by mail.
March Fong Eu (2019) by Bread and Butter FilmsCalifornia Museum
What does it take to invent a rocket for space flight or develop an enzyme to improve biofuels? Curiosity, imagination, and perseverance, as these women demonstrate.
Mary Golda Ross (c. 1950s) by unknown photographerOriginal Source: Evelyn Ross McMillan
Mary Golda Ross helped develop the technology that launched the U.S. into space. Lockheed's first female engineer, she was an aerospace designer on its renowned “Skunk Works” team. She was the only woman, apart from the secretary, and the only Native American on the team.
Frances Arnold (2018) by CaltechOriginal Source: Caltech
Frances Arnold is the first U.S. woman to win a Nobel Prize in chemistry. A professor at Caltech, she pioneered “directed evolution,” a method to produce new enzymes—the proteins that drive chemical reactions. Her enzymes can be used to make renewable fuels or treat chemical spills.
Mary-Claire King (c. 2010s) by Steven DewallOriginal Source: Steven Dewall
Mary-Claire King is best known for identifying two genes linked to many breast cancer cases. Her discovery revolutionized treatment, allowing patients to choose therapies based on whether they have the genes. King also pioneered using genetics to investigate human rights abuses.
They are winning, but the game’s not over. Women athletes are fighting for equity—in their pay, visibility, and as leaders in their sports.
Bianca Valenti (2019) by Bread + ButterCalifornia Museum
Chasing her dream of surfing professionally, Bianca Valenti found that prize money available to women was too low to even cover costs. She helped found the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing. Her efforts paid off when the World Surf League announced it would offer equal prize money to women.
Venus and Serena Williams (2000) by MediaPunch IncOriginal Source: Alamy Stock Photo
Venus Williams and her sister Serena changed women’s tennis, dominating the sport for decades. Venus has been ranked No. 1 three times and has won seven Grand Slam singles titles and four Olympic golds. Serena holds 23 Grand Slam titles, has been ranked No. 1 eight times and also has four Olympic golds.
Alex Morgan (2019) by PA ImagesOriginal Source: Alamy Stock Photo
Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe were co-captains of the team that won the 2019 Women's World Cup. In the 2012 Olympics, their goals led the U.S. to gold. They and three other players sued the U.S. Soccer Federation because women are paid less than male players—despite outperforming them on the field.
There is nothing male or female about creativity. Yet women have struggled for recognition in the arts. Their successes show the power of talent, as well as tenacity.
Isabel Allende (2016) by Robert DurellCalifornia Museum
Chilean author Isabel Allende won worldwide praise when her bestselling first book, The House of the Spirits, was published in 1982. The novel established her as a feminist force in Latin America’s male-dominated literary world. A longtime California resident, she has since written 21 books.
Ray Eames (c. 1940s) by Charles EamesOriginal Source: Eames Office
With her husband and creative partner, Charles Eames, Ray Eames revolutionized design, from furniture to film, exhibits, and architecture. A molded plywood chair first gained them international attention in 1946. Many Eames designs remain in production today, prized for quality and simplicity.
Hung Liu (2019) by Bread + ButterCalifornia Museum
After immigrating to California in 1984, Hung Liu became one of the first Chinese artists to establish a career in the West. Today, she is one of the most prominent. Her best-known work uses photos of anonymous women, children, refugees, and soldiers, bringing to life people forgotten by history.
Hung Liu (2019) by Bread and Butter FilmsCalifornia Museum
Women who champion justice and equality use innovative tactics to overcome powerful opposition. They look to the next generation to continue their work.
Dolores Huerta (2013) by Robert DurellCalifornia Museum
Dolores Huerta been a civil rights leader for over 50 years. Best known as co-founder of the UFW, she was the first woman in U.S. history to negotiate a labor contract for farm workers. Today she advocates for the working poor, immigrants, women, and youth as head of the Dolores Huerta Foundation.
Aiko Herzig-Yoshinaga (c. 1970s) by Unknown photographerOriginal Source: Gerrie Miyazaki
Aiko Yoshinaga spent World War II confined in U.S. incarceration camps. She later researched the incarceration, disproving what the government had called “military necessity.” Her work helped secure reparations for survivors, a presidential apology, and the exoneration of three men who resisted.
Vilma Martinez (2013) by Sergio LlameraOriginal Source: American Embassy in Argentina
Vilma Martínez's work with the NAACP led to a Supreme Court ruling that helped establish equal opportunity in employment. She later led the push to expand Voting Rights Act protections to Mexican Americans as president of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
This online exhibit is drawn from a California Museum exhibition that was developed in collaboration with California First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom. It builds on an earlier installation, California’s Remarkable Women, which was conceived by former California First Lady Maria Shriver and launched in 2004. The California Museum thanks Maria and Jennifer, two visionaries who are always working to empower women, for their leadership.
Ellen Hartigan-O’Connor, UC Davis
Mary Ann Irwin, Cal State East Bay
Lisa G. Materson, UC Davis
Brenda E. Stevenson, UCLA