What does the word “progress” mean to you? 

In 2005, I ended a 7-year relationship. My therapist urged me to heal by setting a goal, so I signed up for a triathlon. Finding my way to the finish line required passion, discipline, and creativity. 

Over six months, I got stronger and faster. There were also setbacks: injuries, equipment malfunctions, and a snafu with my race registration. One step forward, two steps back. Sometimes it felt like five steps back.  

That August, I finished my first triathlon more than 15 minutes ahead of my desired time. I immediately signed up for another. 

I reflect on this experience as I think about what progress means to me. Progress is rarely linear, rarely easy, and rarely without complications and disappointment. But over time, it can be measured and celebrated. Perhaps most importantly, it can be built upon. 

2023 marks several anniversaries in women’s history: the 175th anniversary of the first women’s rights convention in Seneca Falls, NY; the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment; the 50th anniversary of the first National Women’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, and the 50th anniversary of the passing of Roe v. Wade. 

This year, as we acknowledge these important milestones, the National Women’s Hall of Fame is challenging our community to consider what these anniversaries mean to you. How far have we come? How far do we have to go?  

For this month’s blog post, I interviewed Natalie Rudd, Learning & Engagement Manager, who will be leading the Hall’s 2023 programmatic theme: “Progress [?].” 

Thank you for being a part of the National Women’s Hall of Fame and for joining us in this exploration of a theme that we know will inspire thought and conversation!  

Q: Natalie, please share what inspired this year’s theme.

Natalie: We knew that 2023 is important for the Hall and women’s rights. For months, our team has been brainstorming our role in acknowledging and celebrating this year. We asked ourselves questions about why we celebrate anniversaries, what they cause us to reflect upon, and what stories need to be included as we seek to understand the past and look to the future. 

Anniversaries provide us with the opportunity for reflection. They provide the framework to look back upon a singular moment in time and acknowledge what has changed, and what hasn’t. As our team was discussing these philosophical questions we kept coming back to the idea of “progress.”  

The Oxford Dictionary defines Progress as “forward or onward movement toward a destination.” If the last few years have taught us anything, it’s that progress is non-linear and subjective. This weekend on January 22, it was the 50th anniversary of the passage the landmark Supreme Court Case, Roe V. Wade, that ruled that individuals have the right to choose to have an abortion. For many people, the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973 was seen as progress. For others, progress was the reversal of Roe v. Wade last June.  

This year we will use our programming, social media, and gallery space to explore this theme and ask our community: what does progress mean to you?  

Q: Why is this theme important to the Hall right now? 

Natalie: If you’ve been following along with the Hall over the last few years, you know that we are in a period of growth. Our staff has nearly doubled in size; construction continues at our museum; and a new five-year strategic plan is in the works. As we grow, the definition of progress remains at the forefront of our minds. This theme is important right now because these anniversaries allow us to engage in timely national conversations about women’s rights that will allow us to progress towards our vision: a nation that respects women, their voices, and their achievements, and recognizes their value and contributions to society. 

Q: What can the public expect? 

Natalie: In the gallery we will have hands-on activities and mini exhibit pop-ups throughout the year. In July, Seneca Falls will come alive with hundreds – even thousands – of individuals gathering to celebrate the 175th Anniversary of the 1848 Convention and the Centennial of the ERA.  

Online, we’ll be rolling out educational curriculums, partnering with likeminded organizations, and engaging with our social media communities, especially during our second annual Week of Women (April 3-7, 2023). We’ll be hosting in-person programs with Inductees in several locations. And of course, we’ll induct a new class of women into the Hall later this year, their stories allowing for even more exploration into what progress means for us as individuals and for our society and way of life. Follow along @womenofthehall on all social media platforms to learn more. 

Stay tuned as we continue to grow, develop, and progress this year!