A personal interest quickly developed into a social and educational cause for Wilhelmina Holladay. During a tour of Vienna with her husband, Holladay became interested in the work of the artist, Clara Peeters, a contemporary of Rembrant.
Holladay was amazed and dismayed to learn that the talented woman artist was not listed in major art references, nor were many other deserving women artists. She also found that the major American art museums had devoted few shows to the work of women artists.
In an effort to correct the inequity, Holladay established The National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA). Opened in 1987, it promotes a greater awareness of women in the arts and their contributions to aesthetics throughout the ages.
Six years after the museum opened its doors in Washington, D.C., it boasted an organization of national and international chapters and a membership of more than 125,000, which makes it the third largest museum in the world in terms of membership. To fulfill its mission, the museum cares for and displays a permanent collection, presents special exhibitions, and conducts educational programs. A state-of-the-art, 200 seat auditorium serves as a center for the performing arts and other creative disciplines in which women excel.
NMWA also maintains a Library and Research Center containing substantial specialized holdings for research. The Center has developed numerous publications, including a quarterly newsletter, exhibition catalogues, books, brochures, and curriculum materials. Said Holladay, “When substantial accomplishments and excellence are known, the right to be taken seriously surely will follow. Women should know their heritage which has been so long ignored.”