Karen Staser

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Woman Category: Activism & Feminism, Arts, and Business & EntrepreneurshipWoman Tags: Art Collector

  • HerStory

    The founder of the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM).

    In 1982, Karen Staser was asked by her father in law to name five historical women who were famous for their own and not because of their husband’s. Staser, who graduated from San Francisco State University with a Master’s Degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology, could not think of merely five women. This occasion led her into 13 years of self-directed research on the history of women in the US. During this time of reading, studying, and searching, she became aware that documented US history is lacking the stories of the women who changed America.
    Relocating due to her husband’s new job in Washington, DC, in 1994, she noticed that there are different Smithsonian museums, but none is dedicated to women’s history and legacy. The realization that women were still invisible led her to take action and to establish a museum in the nation’s capital that would be dedicated to women in the US, showcasing their achievements and contributions to the country. Thus, In 1995 the National Women’s History Museum was founded.
    In its first five years, Staser was the only full-time person working at the museum, serving as its first chair and president, and gathered strong women to join her on the board. NWHM’s first project was leading the campaign to relocate the Group Portrait Monument, honoring the women’s suffrage leaders, to the US Capitol Rotunda. After two years of struggle, they succeeded. The dedication ceremony occurred on Mother’s Day in 1997.
    By the end of the 20th century, a board was established with growing staff dedicated to the museum. While working to establishing the museum in a physical place in the National Mall, the museum continued to develop in other ways – a website with online exhibits, the annual national Women Making History Awards, national fundraising events, traveling exhibitions all over the US, and many more.
    In 2000, Staser decided to relocate to Alaska following her husband’s new assignment and resigned from NWHM.


    “A better world awaits the generation that absorbs what women and men have to share about life from a joint perspective. Together, all things are possible.”


    “A better world awaits the generation that absorbs what women and men have to share about life from a joint perspective. Together, all things are possible.”


    More Interesting Anecdotes:

    • She is married and has two daughters.
    • She plays the piano.
    • She was the head of the International Agreements Branch for the US Army in Germany, conducted strategic management planning for the San Francisco District US Corps of Engineers, and founded a child development center.
  • More About Her Legacy

    * The National Nick Hoge Award for Organizational Development

  • Watch and Learn More

  • One of Her Landmarks

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  • Woman Tags: Art Collector

    National Women's History Museum Intro Video

    Learn about the National Women's History Museum.

  • Photo credit - WWP team

  • Citations and Additional References:
    National Women's History Museum website.