Smithsonian American Women’s History director advocates for women’s histories at UH talk

“Sharing Stories from 1977” project

Smithsonian American Women’s History director Tey Marianna Nunn advocated for women’s histories at a UH talk held at the Center for Public History’s “Preserving Women’s History at the Smithsonian” event. The inaugural director of the Smithsonian's American Women's History Initiative, Nunn discussed the importance of recognizing women’s historical contributions and the significance of the “Sharing Stories from 1977” project, which highlights the 1977 National Women’s Conference. 

“It's such a great collaboration with UH Libraries, the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality and the U.S. Latino Digital Humanities Center, along with the Center for Public History,” Nunn said. “I'm so pleased to know that the University of Houston values and centers women's history among its priorities and its programs.” 

Nunn’s work at the Smithsonian aims to amplify research on powerful historical moments that showcase women’s experiences and legacies. Fascinated by headstrong fictional females — such Nancy Drew, Wonder Woman and Star Trek Lieutenant Nyota Uhura — she works to document and preserve materials that showcase women’s stories. 

“The Sharing Stories project joins students, researchers, educators, archivists and National Women’s collaborators keen to capture the vibrancy and the importance of this grand exercise of civic engagement,” Leandra Zarnow, associate professor of history, said. “It is where we can document, preserve and interpret the stories of the National Women’s Conference participants as well as assess the conference’s legacy while sharing our findings in an open-source website.”  

Funded by a multi-year National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the Sharing Stories project involves a national effort to remember the National Women’s Conference by writing biographies and interpretive essays, collecting oral histories, preserving historical ephemera, and constructing demographic mapping and interpretive essays. 

March 22 marked one year since the launch of the all-access digital humanities website, illustrating the diversity of political engagement in the history of women and revealing that in the 1970s Americans were more committed to the expansion of American democracy than conveyed in common literature. 

“Only by understanding our history do we hope to make progress,” Daniel P. O’Connor, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences, said. “Sharing Stories is a great collaboration and a primary example of interdisciplinary scholarship and research which we are working to motivate. Linking up with national and international institutions like the Smithsonian provides a way to tell stories that resonate and will help to shape our future.”