“Remember the ladies,” Abigail Adams famously advised her husband, John Adams, in 1776, when he was attending the Continental Congress and busy formulating his ideas about the new government. John Adams, who went on to become the second president of the United States in 1797, did his best. But that was a long time ago, and women have long acted as their own advocates. One day, perhaps, Americans might marvel that there was ever a time when a woman couldn’t vote, own property, succeed in sports, run a large company, or become the president. In the meantime, let us now celebrate the achievements of women in many realms. Unfortunately, at least two of the city’s main monuments to women, the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, will be closed for renovations through 2022 and possibly beyond. Start: The Mary McLeod Bethune National Historic Site near the 14th St. Corridor.

1. Mary McLeod Bethune National Historic Site

Mary McLeod Bethune bought this house not as a residence, but to serve as headquarters for the National Council for Negro Women. Although she did live here from 1943 to 1949, it is the sense of her professional rather than personal life that you absorb from the exhibits—which speak volumes. Look for a black-and-white photo of FDR’s cabinet in the 1930s, and there you will see a panel of white men and, in their midst, a Black woman—Bethune, appointed as a national advisor to the president. The house is managed by the National Park Service; even when it’s closed to the public, it’s a worthwhile reminder of the accomplishments of this impressive woman.

It’s about a 1-mile walk down 14th St., or you can take the 52 bus to the:

2. National Museum of African American History & Culture

African American women and their contributions to politics, academics, arts, and athletics are reflected throughout this impressive museum. The newest museum to the National Mall, it details the entire African American experience from slavery to modern times, so much of which features the contributions of women. Exhibits include Rosa Parks’ handmade dress from 1955–56 and Althea Gibson’s Wightman Cup blazer when she became the first African American Grand Slam tennis champion in 1957. Stories of lesser-known African American women, including Mae Reeves, who fashioned hats in Philadelphia for more than 50 years, are also on display. Note: You must reserve visitor passes before arriving. 

Walk along Constitution Ave. across 14th St. to each the:

3. National Museum of American History

The most popular exhibit in the museum is the First Ladies exhibit, which gives First Ladies their due as strong and interesting people in their own right. Also don’t miss Julia Child’s Kitchen (in the “Food: Transforming the American Table 1950–2000” exhibit), a tribute to a different kind of icon; “Uniformed Women in the Great War,” presenting the role of women in World War I; and the individual stories of ordinary women woven throughout the museum’s exhibits, such as that of abolitionist Lucy Caldwell, who lived “Within These Walls,” an occupant of the old Ipswich House on view, from 1836 to 1865. And the Star-Spangled Banner? The handiwork of a woman, or rather, several women: Mary Pickersgill and her daughter, nieces, and a maid. See p. ###.

Exit the museum on the National Mall side and walk diagonally across the Mall to the:

4. National Air and Space Museum 

Throughout history, women pilots have played an integral part in aviation. But it wasn’t until the 1970s that women gained full access to military and commercial cockpits, as well as the Space Shuttle. From Amelia Earhart’s red Lockheed Vega (the one she flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932) to the clothes Sally Ride wore during her Space Shuttle mission aboard Challenger in June 1983, when she became the first U.S. woman in space, this museum honors the lasting legacy women have made in flight.

Exit the museum onto Independence Ave, heading east. Take a left on 7th St. SW to reach the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station. From here you’ll board a Green Line train and take it one stop to the Waterfront:

5. The Wharf 

The buzziest development in town is also home to a number of local women-owned businesses. Contrary to what the name suggests, Hank’s Oyster Bar is owned by female chef Jamie Leeds, who has been growing her collection of eateries in the D.C. area for over a decade. On the shopping side, a number of stores here are women-owned and operated. Shop Made in DC is one of them and is a great stop for DC-inspired feminist gear, like “Madame Vice President” clothing and prints celebrating the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg. 


Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.