Our History

The National Women’s Hall of Fame is the nation’s first and oldest nonprofit organization and museum dedicated to honoring and celebrating the achievements of distinguished American women. In August 2020, the National Women’s Hall of Fame moved into the 1844 Seneca Knitting Mill, where it uses the stories of its 302 Inductees to inspire and engage all who visit.


Shirley Hartley envisioned a (National) Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the Women’s Rights Movement. In December, she invited friends, associates, potential donors, and many of the town’s leaders to an event she called the “Founders’ Tea,” which served as an homage to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Martha Wright, Mary Ann McClintock, and Jane Hunt, who famously convened over a cup of tea in 1848 to exchange ideas about women’s rights.


The National Women’s Hall of Fame was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Founders included Ann A. Bantuvanis, Helen Barben, Joseph Coffee, Mary Curry, Elizabeth Delavan, Joseph Doyle, Shirley Hartley, Patricia Jenks, Marilyn Marks, Elizabeth Mayer, Helen Miller, Louise Olmstead, Lillian Oliver, Shirley Patterson, Margaret Rapp, John Rosenkrans, Caroline Sanderson, and Maredith Steen.


Eisenhower College (now Northeast College of Health Sciences) hosted the first Induction Ceremony. The inaugural Induction Class included Jane Addams, Marian Anderson, Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton, Mary McLeod Bethune, Elizabeth Blackwell, Pearl Buck, Rachel Carson, Mary Cassatt, Emily Dickinson, Amelia Earhart, Alice Hamilton, Helen Hayes, Helen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Florence Sabin, Margaret Chase Smith, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Helen Brooke Taussig, and Harriet Tubman.

1976 The Helen Mosher Barben Building

During America’s bicentennial celebration, the Women’s Hall of Fame held its second Induction Ceremony at Carnegie Hall; the only time Induction has been hosted outside of Central New York. The organization honored Abigail Adams, Mildred “Babe” Didrikson Zaharias, and Margaret Mead, the first living Inductee to attend the ceremony.

July 21, 1979

After successfully completing an extensive renovation campaign, the National Women’s Hall of Fame moved into the former Seneca Falls Savings Bank Building at 76 Fall Street in Seneca Falls.  The organization remained in this location for 41 years, continuing to add new classes of Inductees and, eventually, outgrowing the space.


As one of the last remaining vestiges of industrial life in Seneca Falls, the Seneca Knitting Mill needed extensive renovations. Over a ten-year period, the National Women’s Hall of Fame and local contractors stabilized the structure, replaced the roof, installed new windows, preserved the smokestack and the floors, and updated the electrical system.

August 2020

The National Women’s Hall of Fame opened to the public in its new home at the former Seneca Knitting Mill. In its new building, the Hall stands as a home for those who took it upon themselves to fight for a place in history. We hope you will join us in celebrating this achievement and return many times in the years to come!

Photo credit: Marsha Hayles, 2021