Publication Date

September 1, 1990

Perspectives Section


Post Type


“From Parlor to Politics: Women in Reform in America, 1890–1925,” a major exhibition on women, social reform, and politics around the turn of the century, opened June 28 at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The exhibit highlights some of the major accomplishments of women active during the Progressive Era.

Much of the background information for the exhibit was provided by the March 1988 conference on “Women in the Progressive Era” that was held at the Museum of American History. The conference, which was presented by the American Historical Association in conjunction with the National Museum of American History, addressed many issues of the Progressive Era as they related to women, including housing, welfare, work, political networks, temperance, public policy, and ethnicity.

The exhibit contains more than 700 objects and 275 photographs depicting the women’s temperance movement, suffrage, education, the home economics movement, public health, labor reforms, social work, peace activism by women, and other related topics. The items on display include temperance banners, buttons, and badges; Alice Stone Blackwell’s suffrage wagon; a banner, prayer book, and school desk belonging to educator Nannie Helen Burroughs; Frances Willard’s traveling tea set; Alice Paul’s desk; Susan B. Anthony’s red shawl; and Jane Addams’ Nobel Peace Prize.

The exhibit also examines the formation of a number of women’s clubs that served as organizational and financial bases for reform. “From Parlor to Politics” documents the growth of these groups into such national networks as the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, the National Association of Colored Women, and the National Council of Jewish Women.