Home>Travel inspiration>Art + Culture>Museums + Galleries

New Smithsonian Exhibition Celebrates a Century of Women Writers

By Katherine LaGrave

Sep 18, 2020

share this article
The writer Lorraine Hansberry, whose portrait is on display in the exhibition

Lorraine Hansberry by David Attie / 1959, Gelatin silver print / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution / © David Attie

The writer Lorraine Hansberry, whose portrait is on display in the exhibition

The exhibition features some of the most influential poets, novelists, and memoirists of the past 100 years.

share this article

Bibliophiles, rejoice: From September 18 through January 18, 2021, some of the most influential poets, novelists, and memoirists of the past 100 years will be fêted with a new exhibition at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. Titled Her Story: A Century of Women Writers, the exhibit showcases 24 women through photographs, papers, sculptures, personal stories, and paintings, weaving together 100 years of literary history. 

According to organizers, the timing of the exhibit coincides with the commemoration of the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920. Expect portraits of Pulitzer Prize–winners Toni Morrison, Anne Tyler, and Maya Angelou, as well as those of Susan Sontag, Lorraine Hansberry, Marilynne Robinson, and Joyce Carol Oates. Other women featured include Sandra Cisneros—author of The House on Mango Street, and the first Latina to be a MacArthur Fellow—and Gwendolyn Brooks, who won a Pulitzer in 1950 for Annie Allen. Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, who curated the exhibit from the museum’s collection and is the Portrait Gallery’s senior historian and director of history, research, and scholarly programs, said the writers featured collectively represent the receipt of every major literary prize of the 20th century.

A famous portrait of the writer Susan Sontag, which is also currently on display

“The work of these women has changed the way that we understand American literature,” Shaw said in a release about the exhibition. “They have worked in many different modes, from poetry to prose, fiction and criticism. Their works have been written for stage and screen and adapted for those formats. Many of these writers are familiar names, while others will be new to many of our visitors. We hope that this exhibition will encourage people to dive deeper into the production of these writers, to revisit favorite books and read new ones.”

The opening of the exhibition also coincides with the reopening of the National Portrait Gallery, which shares a building with the Smithsonian American Art Museum and has adjusted hours of 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays. Though general admission to the Smithsonian remains free, visitors are now required to register for a timed-entry pass ahead of arrival. To reserve a slot, visit the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery’s timed-entry pass page

>> Next: The “Flying Feminist” Who Was the First Woman to Design, Build, and Fly Her Own Plane

Sign up for the Daily Wander newsletter for expert travel inspiration and tips

Please enter a valid email address.

Read our privacy policy