The items in this online exhibition evoke the stories of American women through the ages.
Click on any image to begin.

Women of Courage portraits, 1981

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute

Photo by Kevin Grady/Radcliffe Institute


In 1981, the photographer Judith Sedwick initiated Women of Courage, a portrait project to capture the strength, dignity, and character of the memoirists who had participated in the Library’s Black Women Oral History Project. On exhibition here are just a few of the dozens of images included in the project.
Organized to document the lives and contributions of a group of women born around 1900, the Black Women Oral History Project began in 1976 with initial funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. Under the direction of Ruth Edmonds Hill, interviews were initially conducted by Schlesinger Library staff members and subsequently by African American women scholars. Topics ranged from early childhood memories to the major influences, challenges, and accomplishments of professional careers in government, the arts, business, education, medicine, the law, and social work. While some participants described the values of family life or voluntary service at the local, state, and national level, many others detailed the impact of race and gender on their lives—at times limiting their options but ultimately strengthening their resolve. 

The popular exhibit catalog for Women of Courage was published by the Library in 1984. Under the Library‘s auspices, Sedwick’s striking photographs were exhibited across the country for nearly two decades.

Photographs by Judith Sedwick, Black Women Oral History Project Records

Catalog record:


Learn more:

See the Schlesinger Library research guides on African American women and the Black Women Oral History Project.

Heather Min