Women of the West
In 2002 the Women of the West Museum merged with the Autry National Center, creating a gathering place for programs, exhibitions, collections, research, and education dedicated to diverse women's experiences in the American West. Our goal is to gain a new understanding, not simply of what women have done but of why it matters for the West—past, present, and future.
Founded in 1991 in Boulder, Colorado, the Women of the West Museum was the first museum in the nation dedicated to the history of women of all cultures in the American West. Committed to education outside traditional museum walls, the Women of the West Museum broke new ground with its innovative use of online exhibitions, community partnerships, women's history trails, and art-based humanities programs. The merger with the Autry reflected a continuation of its original spirit, while providing a physical home in Los Angeles to continue its vision through new exhibitions and programs integrated into an overall vision of the West.
Chair, Women of the West
Professor of History, and Director, Center for the Southwest, at the University of New Mexico
Dr. Scharff has written numerous works about the history of women in the United States. At the Autry she works with Dr. Carolyn Brucken, Chief Curator, to develop exhibitions and programs about women and gender, including Home Lands: How Women Made the West.
The Butcher Scholar Award
Established in 2001 by the Women of the West Museum, the Butcher Scholar Award honors the vision, leadership, and generosity of Jane and Charlie Butcher. The Award supports original research that promise to deepen our understanding of the history of diverse women in the historical and contemporary West.
Through the Butcher Scholar Award, the Autry has supported research projects in western women’s history of emerging and established scholars since 2002. Beginning in 2012-2013, the Autry will expand the Butcher Scholar Award to a public program showcasing an invited speaker whose work breaks new ground in the history of western women.
The Autry continues to fund scholarly research projects and encourages historians of western women to apply for one of the many fellowships opportunities listed at http://theautry.org/research/fellowships
Past online exhibitions:
This Shall Be the Land for Women
In 1893 when Colorado won a stunning victory for women's voting rights, Western journalist Caroline Nichols Churchill cheered, "This Shall Be the Land for Women!" Women of the American West led the nation in the struggle for female voting rights, known as the "suffrage movement." This remarkable story began in 1869, when Wyoming Territory approved full and equal suffrage for scarcely one thousand women.
Visit the exhibition to learn more about state-by-state victories, biographies of suffrage leaders, and more.
There Are No Renters Here – Homesteading in a Sod House
In 1862, The United States government passed the Homestead Act, which opened up much of the West for settlement by U.S. Citizens. Land taken from American Indians – by means of war, treaties, and trading – was declared "public domain." Signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln, The Homestead Act made it possible for many people to own land for the first time in their lives.
Visit the exhibition to view historical documents and to learn about the story of Mattie Oblinger, a Nebraska homesteader, and her family's life in a sod house.
Collaborations: Drawn Together
Although the most famous woman artist in the West is unquestionably Georgia O'Keeffe—known for her solitary and independent nature—many other women have chosen to work together to produce art. In this exhibition, the Women of the West Museum presents six examples of just a few ways in which women have come together for the purpose of creating art: as mentors and disciples; mothers, sisters, and daughters; teachers and students; and friends and associates.
Drawn Together: Women Make Art in the American West was first produced by the Women of the West Museum with support from Xcel Energy Foundation.
Lodo Mural Project
This exhibition was a part of a larger public program that took place from January through September 2000 at 16 Market Street in downtown Denver, Colorado. Across from a central bus station, along a busy corridor in an area known as LoDo, or Lower Downtown, a 250-foot long mural introduced passers-by to some of the many women who have contributed to Colorado history.
Learn more about the Autry's collections and explore our Collections Online database to see images of the fascinating art, objects, photographs, and documents in our collections. Your research project may require “researcher level” access to view catalog records not yet in the public view. Please contact a librarian to request an id and password at