In December of 2017, the Center for Women’s History at New-York Historical Society launched Women at the Center, a new blog and social media project to highlight everything we do. Over the past year, our team has composed 46 blog posts, capturing the wide range of exhibitions, public programs, scholarly initiatives, and educational endeavors that the Center sponsors at New-York Historical Society. We’ve also created recurring features: our “Finding Women in the Archives” series highlights women’s history in our own extensive library and museum collections, and our “Teaching Women’s History” series showcases pieces of Women and the American Story, our 10-unit curriculum guide in women’s history for grades 6-12. Our award-winning social media manager, Claire Lanier, uses these stories as raw material for posts on our New-York Historical Society Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts with the hashtag #womenatthecenter.
A little over one year in, how are we doing? What are people reading, liking, and sharing? What does the reception of these posts tell us about public interest in women’s history? How might these readers and their reactions help us shape our work going forward?
We’ve pulled together our most popular posts from the blog and social media to help us answer those questions. Without further ado, let’s take a look the Women at the Center highlight reel for 2018.
The Women at the Center blog is the foundation of the project, a space where our interns, curators, educators, and fellows have explored topics ranging across five centuries of women’s history in the Americas. The top five posts of 2018 reflect the diversity of topics we have covered, and the wide range of approaches we bring to the practice of women’s history. In countdown order, they are:
The first of two “Teaching Women’s History” posts in the top five, this piece, by Associate Director of Education Allyson Schettino, highlights one of the major strengths of our Women and the American Story curriculum guide. More than a guide to well-known women, this project gives teachers the tools address the ways that women’s lives have been constrained throughout history on account of their gender. As Schettino writes, even as we celebrate women’s achievements, we “must not lose sight of the experiences of the thousands of other women who could not break out of the mold society had set for them.” Her post examines a document from our library that features in our Early Encounters, 1492-1734 unit, the will of Joseph Grover. Schettino uses Grover’s will to reveal a “masterclass in the marginalization of women,” highlighting gender discrimination in the laws and economic organization of the early British colonies.
4. “Breaking the Bronze Ceiling”: The Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Woman Suffrage Movement Monument
This past summer, the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Statue Fund unveiled the winning design for a monument to Stanton and Anthony that will be completed in Central Park in 2020. In their post about the unveiling, which took place at New-York Historical Society, Curatorial Scholar Jeanne Gutierrez and Mellon Predoctoral Fellow Nicole Mahoney put this news in context, surveying the lives of these suffragists as well as the “turbulent history of civic engagement in New York City” and “ongoing debates over the use and meaning of public space.” Gutierrez, our most prolific blogger in 2018, followed this post with a deep dive into the history of women as allegories of America in October, from sketches to monumental statues.
3. Finding Women in the Archives: The New York Society for the Suppression of Vice and Anthony Comstock’s War on Contraception
We were blessed with a phenomenal group of interns at the Center for Women’s History in 2018, who wrote blog posts on topics including the musical Carmen Jones, the pioneering dancer Isadora Duncan, the women civil rights activists of Browder v. Gayle, and our participation in the 2018 Women’s Building Block Party. It’s fitting, then, that one of our top five posts was composed by an intern, June Titus of Rutgers. Inspired, in part, by our Hotbed exhibition, and by the theme of our 2018 Max Conference on Women’s History, “Sex and the Constitution,” Titus conducted extensive research in the records of the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice, held in our Library. As she discovered, “through their efforts, and particularly those of their secretary, Anthony Comstock, the Society shaped the policing of women’s sexuality and reproduction in ways that reverberated across the nation.” Titus’s post also serves as a great introduction to our “Finding Women in the Archives” series, in which our team explores the extensive collections at New-York Historical Society.
As education researcher Regan Loggans wrote in the opening of this post, “Historians don’t usually rave about the Early Colonial Period (1500-1700) as a time of great creative output.” We don’t tend to assume that posts about nuns from this period will go viral, either, but by our standards, that’s exactly what happened with Loggans’ piece on Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. The piece, and the poem it highlights — Hombre Necios (Foolish Men) — was read and shared widely, no doubt because its critique of patriarchal hypocrisy feels timeless. The second of two posts from our “Teaching Women’s History” series to crack the top five, this piece shows how our Women and the American Story curriculum guide introduces teachers and students to sources with the power to capture our present-day imaginations.
Our most-read post of 2018 was written by none other than our Director, New-York Historical Society Senior Vice-President and Chief Historian Valerie Paley. In this essay, composed for the catalog that accompanied our exhibition Walk This Way: Footwear from the Stuart Weitzman Collection of Historical Shoes, Paley gives the reader a whirlwind tour of the history of the high heel, exploring how this particular variety of shoe has taken on “freighted meanings of femininity, power, domination, and ambition” across the centuries. The post is a sterling example of what our Center does at its best, taking a seemingly-obvious topic — women and shoes! — and showing readers just how much there is to learn through the lens of women’s history. It’s no wonder it was the most popular post of the past year.
In addition to blogging, we promote our Center for Women’s History on social media with the hashtag #womenatthecenter. Our blog provide the images and text for these posts, and certain themes prove popular across platforms, but it’s also interesting to see how our work translates to different contexts. New-York Historical Society maintains Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, and #womenatthecenter posts have taken off on all three this year.
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Unbelievable day during our Citizenship Project Takeover! We were deeply moved and profoundly honored to welcome Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to the Museum to officiate the @USCIS naturalization ceremony this morning. 👩🏻⚖️❤️🇺🇸 Over the last year, 644 students have either taken or registered for our @citizenshipprojectnyhs—including one student who became a citizen today!—and it was this shared value in U.S. history and education that inspired Justice Ginsburg to generously offer her time after reading about the Citizenship Project last year. 🙏🙏🙏 Our utmost gratitude to Justice Ginsburg for inspiring new and existing citizens alike today, reminding us of our responsibilities and our freedoms that bond us as a nation and as U.S. citizens, no matter where we come from. #RuthBaderGinsburg #NotoriousRBG #RBG #CitizenshipProjectNYHS #SCOTUS #CPTakesOver #womenatthecenter
Four #womenatthecenter posts topped 1,000 likes on Instagram this year. It will surprise no one that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg featured in one such post, taken from her visit to New-York Historical Society in April to officiate at a citizenship ceremony in partnership with our Citizenship Project (above). Others included an image of the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire from our library, an event which we commemorated with a blog post and a family program on the final day of our Hotbed exhibition; a dreamy shot of Patchen Place in Greenwich Village, taken by pathbreaking Village photographer Jessie Tarbox Beals (and also featured in Hotbed); and our most-liked #womenatthecenter Instagram post of 2018, a text-based post drawn from our response to the elimination of two notable women from Texas state social studies curriculum standards.
Our most-shared #womenatthecenter Facebook posts reveal similar interests among our followers, and reflect a particular desire for content related to the teaching of women’s history. A pair of posts about the Triangle fire garnered over two hundred shares between them, while two posts explicitly about teaching earned nearly one hundred shares apiece. One post featured Sor Juana, the feminist poet of New Spain whose story was our second-most-read blog post of 2018, while the other (above) introduced our Women and the American Story curriculum guide and kicked off the whole “Teaching Women’s History” series.
The audio of this program will be made available in the future—stay tuned! pic.twitter.com/XtCusZKeYZ
— N-YHistoricalSociety (@NYHistory) June 26, 2018
On Twitter, many of the same themes and topics caught fire (hello again, Sor Juana!). The platform also served as a great place to celebrate our public programs. Our June salon conversation between Samantha Bee and Irin Carmon drew plenty of attention, as did the launch of Season 2 of the NBC drama Timeless.
Women at the Center in 2019
What can we learn from a year of blogging and posting on social media? The good news is that our readers and followers are excited about women’s history. They are particularly interested in the teaching of women’s history, which bodes well for the students of today and tomorrow. And while not every post will take off when we publish it, the ideas, images, and documents we include in these pieces have plenty of time to find their moment later on, whether on social media, in an exhibition, or as part of our Women and the American Story curriculum guide.
Thanks for reading in 2018, and stay tuned for more great #womenatthecenter posts in 2019!
— The Center for Women’s History, New-York Historical Society
Top image credit: Women’s Voices at New-York Historical Society.