THE MISSION OF the National Museum of Women in the ARTS

With its collections, exhibitions, programs, and online content, the museum seeks to inspire dynamic exchanges about art and ideas. NMWA advocates for better representation of women artists and serves as a vital center for thought leadership, community engagement, and social change. NMWA addresses the gender imbalance in the presentation of art by bringing to light important women artists of the past while promoting great women artists working today.To fulfill this mission, NMWA:

  • Displays and preserves a collection of more than 5,000 objects

  • Presents ten world-class exhibitions featuring women artists each year

  • Runs an acclaimed public programs initiative highlighting the power of women and the arts as catalysts for change

  • Offers education curricula and programs for learners of all ages

  • Maintains a 17,500-volume library and research center

  • Serves as a leading resource for facts about gender disparity in the arts

  • Highlights women artists on its website, blog, and social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

  • Publishes art history books and a triannual magazine

  • Sponsors twenty national and international outreach committees, whose members serve as NMWA ambassadors and advocate for artists in their regions.



Founded in 1987, NMWA is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to recognizing women’s creative contributions. The idea for the National Museum of Women in the Arts grew from a simple, obvious, but rarely asked question: Where are all the women artists?

NMWA’s founders, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay and Wallace F. Holladay, began collecting art in the 1960s, just as scholars and art historians were beginning to discuss the underrepresentation of women and various racial and ethnic groups in museum collections and major art exhibitions. Among the first to apply this revisionist approach to collecting, the Holladays committed themselves for over 20 years to assembling art by women. By 1980, Wilhelmina Cole Holladay began to devote her energies and resources to creating a museum that would showcase women artists, and the Holladay Collection became the core of the institution’s permanent collection.

The National Museum of Women in the Arts was incorporated in November 1981 as a private, non-profit museum. During its first five years, NMWA operated from temporary offices with docent-led tours of the collection at the Holladay residence. Special exhibitions also were presented. In 1983, the museum purchased a 78,810 square-foot Washington landmark near the White House, formerly a Masonic Temple, and refurbished it in accordance with the highest design, museum, and security standards. It won numerous architectural awards.

In the spring of 1987, NMWA opened the doors of its permanent location with the inaugural exhibition, American Women Artists, 1830-1930, a definitive survey curated by one of the country’s foremost feminist art historians, Dr. Eleanor Tufts. See more about the National Museum of Women in the Arts at: