Today I was thrilled to see a link to the National Women’s History Museum’s online exhibits. There are nearly 20 exhibits on a wide range of fascinating topics, including Women in Early Film, Clandestine Women: Spies in American History, American Women in the Olympics, Young and Brave: Girls Changing History and Women with a Deadline: Female Printers, Publishers and Journalists.
There are so many interesting exhibits I almost didn’t know where to start, but I began with Chinese American Women: A History of Resilience and Resistance. It talks about some of the first Chinese women in the United States, who were unfortunately exploited as curiosities:
Large crowds attended the Chinese women’s “acts,” which again included lessons on how to count and speak in Chinese, and play Chinese instruments and use chopsticks. Such shows gave rise to the earliest stereotype of Chinese women as foreign curiosities.
By marketing Chinese women as a form of public entertainment, businessmen like P.T. Barnum and the Carne Brothers developed and exploited a sensationalist mass culture in America, instructing American audiences to view the Chinese, especially Chinese women, as human oddities.
There’s so much information it’s going to take me awhile to digest it, and I can’t wait to read some of the other exhibits. Thank you, National Women’s History Museum, for all of your great work. Please consider signing their petition to build a permanent museum in Washington, D.C. A bill has come before Congress but was blocked by male Republican senators.