The Michigan Women’s Historical Center & Hall of Fame, founded in 1987, is the only museum in the state dedicated solely to women’s history. The Hall of Fame is the main permanent exhibit in the museum and features 288 women as of 2015. All of the inductees have some affiliation with Michigan and have made remarkable achievements in a variety of fields, such as science, the arts, politics, and civil rights. The museum also hosts other temporary exhibits, an art gallery showcasing Michigan female artists, and programs and events throughout the year.
The Michigan Women’s Historical Center & Hall of Fame is located in the historic 1903 Cooley-Haze house, next door to the Cooley Botanical Gardens. The museum was founded on June 10, 1987, by the Michigan Women’s Studies Association, a group of five Michigan State University professors headed by Gladys Beckwith. The professors had started a course at the university called Women in American Society, which would become the first Women’s Studies program in the country. 1
The Hall of Fame is the only permanent exhibit in the museum, featuring 288 women as of 2015. The hall honors women who have made significant contributions to their professional fields, including science, aviation, healthcare, politics, sports, entertainment, and charity or civil rights work. Some of the famous women inducted are Rosa Parks, Sojourner Truth, Gilda Radner, Lily Tomlin, Aretha Franklin, Serena Williams, Mary Sinclair, Helen Thomas, Betty Ford, and Senator Debbie Stabenow. The museum considers about 10 new inductees every year, usually from around 100 nominations and through a rigorous review process. The inductees must have either been born in Michigan, have lived in the state for a significant amount of time, or have risen to prominence within the state. The inductees are divided into two main categories: “historic” (deceased) and “contemporary” (living).2
In addition to the Hall of Fame, there are temporary exhibits. Recent exhibits include topics of women in the military, women’s roles in the Civil Rights Movement, and women who made remarkable achievements before the age of 20. The center also contains the Belen Gallery, showcasing artwork from Michigan women, a resource library, and a gift shop with items for sale celebrating women’s history. The museum runs group and school tours. Various educational programs and events are offered such as a traveling speaker series, traveling exhibits to rent, lecture series, Family Saturdays, and the Women’s History Trail, consisting of informational signs around the state. The Michigan Women’s Studies Association which oversees the museum also hosts an annual academic conference and has published several educational books on the subject.