Illustrating a Historical Partnership: Abigail and John Adams

In 2014, author David Bruce Smith established The Grateful American Foundation to restore enthusiasm about American history for children—as well as adults—via videos and podcasts. The multimedia offerings have grown to include a book series, which includes the inaugural title Abigail & John, a look into the life and partnership of one of the country’s foundational couples. In the centennial year of women’s suffrage, the book shines a spotlight on the life and influence of Abigail Adams.

In an interview with NMWA, Smith discussed the genesis of the book and his creative partnership with his mother, renowned painter Clarice Smith, who created the book’s illustrations.

Why did you want to tell the story of Abigail and John Adams?

I wanted to write a series of books about presidential and historical couples whose marriages were partnerships. Many women have been diminished through the decades, despite their durable contributions to American history. Abigail Adams, recognized as one of the most educated First Ladies, was also her husband’s politically savvy partner; without her, John Adams would—probably—never have ascended to the White House.

In 1776, while John Adams was in Philadelphia helping to draft the Declaration of Independence, he received a letter from Abigail advising him “to remember the ladies.” Adams considered his wife’s words; it wasn’t the right time to act, but the fact that he reflected on—and respected—her request, proves their marriage was warm, loving, and equal.

A re-examination of Abigail’s life is timely. One hundred years ago, the 19th amendment to the Constitution was ratified, and women got the right to vote. No doubt, the country is now more enlightened—partially because of her.

Why did you choose to work in the children’s book genre?

Actually, I didn’t choose it—the genre “found” me. In 2009, I went to a history conference in Richmond and met the executive director of the John Marshall Foundation. I was offered a commission to write a children’s book about Marshall, with the intent of raising his profile among young people. I told them I had never written for a young audience, but they had read some of my books and were convinced I was qualified, despite my misgivings.

I agreed to the project only if my mother consented to be the illustrator. American Hero: John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States, was published in 2013, with my favorite collaborator.

Can you describe your collaborative process with your mother?

My mother and I have been working together for so many years that it’s no longer a “process.” While I am in the midst of the early drafts, she makes preliminary sketches of the cover and some of the events which have to be included in the story. As my drafts near the finishing point, she fills in with the remaining illustrations, knowing that a book designed for young children requires a picture to accompany almost every idea. When we’re finished, the art and the story pages are laid out to make sure all of the pieces are understandable, cohesive, at the proper grade level. Then, to the editor.

What do you hope young readers will take from this story?

The Adamses lived many stories, which intertwined: for example, Abigail raising the children alone on a farm, while John ascended in politics; their individual sacrifices to help create a democracy; surviving the death of their daughter, Susanna; Abigail, choosing to inoculate herself and the children with a smallpox vaccine that could have killed all of them; John and Abigail pushing and preparing their son, John Quincy, for an un-requested life in politics—and the presidency.

Usually, a children’s book biography is idealistic, with the following trajectory: subject is born; excels in school; succeeds in his/her career quickly; becomes famous; dies a hero. My mother and I wanted to construct Abigail & John differently, so that a young person would learn that everyone—famous or nothas difficulties in life. I think we succeeded, because we explained hardships with age-appropriate language.

Abigail & John is available for purchase in NMWA’s Museum Shop.

Want to learn more? Listen to an interview between Louise Mirrer, president & CEO of the New-York Historical Society, and David Bruce Smith.

2019 Holiday Gift Guide

It’s no secret: NMWA’s Museum Shop is a local favorite for fun, funky, and fresh gifts from women-owned and -operated companies around the world. We rounded up our favorite products to help you find last-minute gifts for the art-loving feminists in your lives.

Visit the shop Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m. and Sunday 12 p.m. –5 p.m., or buy products online.

Museum members receive a 10% discount on purchases both in-store and online. For online purchases, use the member code on your magazine subscription.

For the Art Buff

1.Great Women Artists ($59.95)

2. Yayoi Kusama Mug Set ($48)

3. Guerrilla Girls “Erase Discrimination” Eraser ($3)

4. Frida Kahlo Keychain ($25)

5. Niki de Saint Phalle Bookmark ($4)

For the Fierce Feminist

1. Guerrilla Girls “Dear Art Collector” Handkerchief ($18)

2. Colonize This! Young Women of Color on Today’s Feminism ($19.99)

3. “You’re Perfect!” Boobs Coffee Mug ($17)

4. “Chill with that Misogyny” T-Shirt ($35)

5. Ruth Bader Ginsberg Trinket Tray ($20)

For the Women Who Live Dangerously

NMWA’s exhibition Live Dangerously, on view through January 20, 2020, presents fierce, dreamy, and witty photographs of women presiding over the landscape—all through the lens of the female gaze.

1. Everyday Magic: Rituals, Spells & Potions to Live Your Best Life ($14.99)

2. “Ignite” Small Match Bottle ($17)

3. Rosebud Original Strength CBD Oil ($55)

4. “Women Don’t Owe You Shit” Cap ($32)

5. The New Women’s Survival Catalog ($30)

For the Little Feminist

1. Muslim Girls Rise: Inspirational Champions of Our Time ($17.99)

2. We Came to America ($17.99)

3. She Persisted Around the World: 13 Women Who Changed History ($17.99)

4. Parker Looks Up: An Extraordinary Moment ($17.99)

“Judy Chicago: New Views” Available Now

Cover image of "Judy Chicago: New Views"; the book's title is placed in thin white type over a picture of purple smoke clouds, part of her "Atmospheres" series

As the first major monograph on the feminist artist Judy Chicago in nearly 20 years, Judy Chicago: New Views provides fresh perspectives by leading scholars and curators. Many people know her famed installation The Dinner Party (1974–79), the centerpiece of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum. Her other prescient bodies of work—on sexuality, birth, death, violence, our relationship with natural world, and more—are attracting attention as the art world takes a renewed look at this taboo-breaking contemporary artist.

This fully illustrated volume provides fresh perspectives on Chicago’s career and accompanies the exhibition of her new work in Judy Chicago—The End: A Meditation on Death and Extinction, on view September 19, 2019–January 20, 2020, at NMWA. Highly esteemed contributors offer a new examination of Chicago’s wide-ranging artistic expression and powerful voice. Sarah Thornton’s opening essay provides a rich, yet succinct overview of Chicago’s artistic vision and legacy, and Hans Ulrich Obrist’s fascinating interview with Chicago is one of the most in-depth conversations with the artist to date.

Other essays—by Chad Alligood, Manuela Ammer, Massimiliano Gioni, Philipp Kaiser, Jonathan D. Katz, Martha C. Nussbaum, and William J. Simmons—focus on key bodies of Chicago’s work across her career. They look at her early minimalist works created in Los Angeles in the ’60s and ’70s, the creation of the feminist art movement, and her experimental work in pyrotechnics—as well as her major projects The Dinner Party, Birth Project, Holocaust Project, and PowerPlay. Renowned philosopher Nussbaum concludes the volume with an essay on The End, calling the major new work “startling, upsetting, and profoundly loving.”

To mark the publication of New Views, Nussbaum and Chicago will be in conversation about the book and exhibition at NMWA on September 22. Fresh Talk: Judy Chicago—New Views provides a chance, in real time, to dive deeper into the work and life of an artist steadfastly committed to expanding the role of the artist and claiming her role in history.

Judy Chicago: New Views is published on the occasion of the artist’s 80th birthday, as well as the announcement of the Judy Chicago online archival portal, created through a collaboration between NMWA, the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America at Harvard University, and Penn State University.


Judy Chicago: New Views
Published by: National Museum of Women in the Arts and Scala Arts & Heritage Publishers
Price: $55 U.S.; 240 pages / hardcover / 10 x 11 in.
ISBN: 978-1-78551-182-0

Modern Makers: Queer Candle Co.

Interview with Al Rose and Ab Gibson, creators of Queer Candle Co., a socially conscious brand that seeks to support the LGBTQ community.

Can you tell us about your business and mission?

We’re Ab & Al, a queer couple and queer chandlers based in New York City. We are building our business side by side and making products that we love. As a queer-owned business, it’s important to us that we use part of our profits to amplify the voices of the most oppressed members of our community. That’s why we donate 10% of our monthly earnings to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project (SRLP), an organization working to “guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination, or violence.”

Al Rose and Ab Gibson, creators of Queer Candle Co.

Al Rose and Ab Gibson, creators of Queer Candle Co.

What makes your candles—and your business—unique?

Each candle is topped with a visual representation of the scent (generally herbs, but sometimes dehydrated fruits or salt rocks). Our soy wax candles burn longer and cleaner than paraffin options and our attention to detail in sourcing materials means that our fragrances are fresh, non-toxic, and authentic. We find creative ways to make our candles visually appealing and we’re using fresh and natural ingredients to do it. Our botanical approach to candle-making and the platform that we’ve created for promoting queer business and supporting queer-facing nonprofits is unique.

What is your favorite scent combination? What does it evoke?

Al: My favorite scent is Rosemary & Mint. It really fills a room nicely without overpowering and the botanical mix is refreshing and unique. For us, one of the most important parts of creating a scent is making sure that it actually smells like its name and Rosemary & Mint is so authentic! For me, it evokes a walk through an herb garden on a rainy day.

Ab: I am drawn toward earthy scents, with my all-time favorite being Ginger & Saffron. It’s a zesty fragrance that stands out to me as a perfect combination of ground ginger and floral saffron. I feel more calm and creative when we’re burning Ginger & Saffron. Think of a cup of ginger tea in the afternoon. A little pick-me-up that makes a space feel cleaner and promotes focus.

A Basil & Amber scented Queer Candle Co. candle is held up in front of a blurry background of mountain scenery

A Basil & Amber scented Queer Candle Co. candle

Why did you select the Sylvia Rivera Law Project as the recipient of your donations?

The SRLP stood out not only because it’s a grassroots organization working directly in our community, but also because of their focus on amplifying the voices of trans and gender nonconforming people of color. We want to make sure that we are using Queer Candle Co. to support—both with our voices and with our funds—an organization that is promoting the visibility and protection of those who are systematically and cyclically erased/oppressed.

Is there a female artist that inspires you and/or your work?

Musicians really drive our creativity. Our candle-making playlists are always in flux, but currently on heavy rotation are Lizzo, Janelle Monáe, and Cher. These amazing women make us feel empowered to love ourselves, our bodies, and our queerness.

Modern Makers: Kim Sandara

Interview with Kim Sandara, a queer Laotian/Vietnamese artist based in Northern Virginia. Join us tomorrow night from 6–8 p.m. for Being: An Evening with Kim Sandara. Participate in a collaborative drawing with the artist and check out recent paintings. Music and Lao food provided.

Photo of artist Kim Sandara standing in front of a gallery wall of her painted works.

Kim Sandara; Photo by Mariah Miranda

Can you tell us a little bit about your artwork?

I create paintings that translate music and sound into visuals. I’m also working on an autobiographical “coming out” graphic novel, Origins of Kin & Kang. On the side, I participate in art markets and make zines, earrings, trinkets, and stickers.

Where does your inspiration come from?

A lot of my painting practice draws from childhood nostalgia and moments where I watched my mom play around with her handwriting. I’m also inspired by playful doodling, calligraphy, and the idea of how we identify ourselves by our handwriting. I started creating this type of work when I came out, so that is also another inspiration. I like to explore the idea of suppression versus expression and being able to dip into a subconscious realm where not everything has to have a reason or coherent thought—it just exists within you.

When did you incorporate music into your artwork?

I discovered abstract painting in college. One day, my teacher asked the class to draw music for six hours. By the end of that class I was so taken by the practice of zoning into a subconscious state that I finished a 50-foot roll of paper. The drawing was very action-oriented and spontaneous, as if the sound was leading me and taking over. After that, I decided to explore working with music more.

Kim Sandara's "Sometimes I Dream in Lao," an abstract drawing containing whimsical brushstrokes that resemble lily pads, birds, and water in some parts. The color scheme is teal, light blue, specked with maroon accents.

Kim Sandara, Sometimes I Dream in Lao (2018); Gouache, colored pencil, and markers on paper

What music do you listen to when you paint?

I listen to everything. I also make it a point to never reveal what I’m listening to because I don’t like the idea of a painting being seen in a certain way. I like to make paintings that interact with my own subconscious but that also question a viewer’s interpretation, what they might be hearing or seeing. The viewer’s interpretation is just as important as the artist’s intention.

What women artists inspire you?

I admire Ruth Asawa and Yayoi Kusama. I also look to Charline Von Heyl for compositional help. Linn Meyers is someone I looked up to from the moment I went to the Hirshhorn and saw her drawings. It was so inspirational to see something that was continuous and flowing.

Modern Makers: Beverly Price

Photographer Beverly Price; Photo by Adriana Regalado

Photographer Beverly Price; Photo by Adriana Regalado

Interview with D.C.-based analog photographer and creative activist Beverly Price. Price hails from the city’s Capitol Hill neighborhood, where she documents the culture, resilience, and humanity of her community.

How did you get started?

In 2016 I was going to school for organizational leadership at Georgetown University. I saw the changes [gentrification] in my community and decided I wanted to document them as a D.C. native. After a month of shooting, I got a show at American University with some prominent D.C. artists. After that, I thought I might be on to something.

What do you like about analog photography?

It requires me to use my mind—it is not instant. Great bodies of work take time, skills, observation, and intuition, among many other things. When I see my prints in the darkroom, I just know that a phone could never do the work any justice.

What does community mean to you?

Community is culture. Growing up in Capitol Hill, I was part of a very diverse community. There were wealthy, poor, and middle-class people in my neighborhood—but we worked together and looked out for each other. When this new wave of development hit around 2004 to 2006, it was like a new system of society also arrived. We are losing community with these new buildings, with people constantly on their phones, not communicating. We need to pay attention to this now because it will affect us in the future.

How does your community influence the way that you work?

I was born and raised in D.C., so I can speak the unique language of my community—one that only someone who has been here from childhood through adulthood can understand. I’ve had countless offers to go overseas to document other cultures, but I realized I can’t document another culture until I first see what is happening in my own. That’s my relationship to my community, it’s a mirror to my inner language.

A Seat at the Table by Beverly Price

A Seat at the Table by Beverly Price

What artists do you find inspiring?

I love Gordon Parks. I did a report on him in the eighth grade and his work changed my life. I love Sally Mann, Vivian Maier, and Cindy Sherman. I also just got hip to photographer Francesca Woodman. Her work teaches me the spirituality behind photography.

What is the biggest challenge that you face when doing your work?

Finances. Photography is not a cheap medium but it is a necessary medium for me. I am a not a privileged artist, but I do this with no money because I love it. It’s also a challenge being a queer, black, woman photographer. In society, more men are able to tell their story. My work is 20 times better than half of the photographers I have seen—it tells a stronger story and is more emotionally connected. But being a woman, it won’t always get shown. It can be frustrating.

Modern Makers: Homie House Press

Interview with Adriana Monsalve, co-founder of Homie House Press and co-creator of Sammys, a chapbook exploring culture and identity through food, which is now available in NMWA’s Museum Shop.

Join us for the Sammys Book Launch/Palentines Party on February 14, from 5 to 8 p.m. in the Museum Shop. Celebrate your pals, enjoy live music and poetry performances, try sandwiches featured in the book, and support Homie House Press. Free and open to the public.

 Two hands frame the cover of a book that is titled "Sammys" and the cover is sandwich paper wrapping.

Sammys, edited by Adriana Monsalve and Caterina Ragg; Photo courtesy of Homie House Press

How did Homie House Press begin?

Homie House Press (HHP) is a collaborative project that my partner, Caterina Ragg, and I developed in response to our experiences in the field of photojournalism. Our in-depth, long-term storytelling is both personal and political and was not well received by traditional institutions. Additionally, we faced the problems that arise from a lack of ethnic, racial, and gender diversity in those spaces. Thus, HHP was born as an alternative photojournalism platform that focuses on the experiences of marginalized communities—told on our own terms, though our own lens.

Tell us about the Sammys publication.

Sammys is a project that exists at the intersection of food and identity. We have been investigating and documenting the sandwich consumption of many people from diverse backgrounds, careers, and identities. The purpose of this project is to show a parallel representation of who we are by what we eat.

Food is—and has always been—a vehicle to unite people, to overcome differences, and to share cultures and customs. We hope to intersect identities that may have nothing in common if not for a favorite sandwich.

Two hands frame the Sammys book opened to a photo spread of a deconstructed sandwich including wheat bread, tomato slices, lettuce, and tuna fish.

Sammys, edited by Adriana Monsalve and Caterina Ragg; Photo courtesy of Homie House Press

How does your community influence your work?

Because we are a collective that works within social engagement and community artivism, we have been able to work with many individuals on a broad range of themes and experiences. We also host events and organize workshops and exhibitions related to our publications. We are passionate about design because we want to enhance the reader’s experience by cultivating empathy with the personal, political, and poetic narratives found in our books.

What are your goals for HHP?

To grow our community. To have our own school of thought under Homie House Press that continues to revise what storytelling is and can ultimately be. To continue to foster mentorships and be a courageous safe space for photographers of the future.

Modern Makers: Rose Jaffe

Q&A with Rose Jaffe, a D.C.-based artist and native Washingtonian whose multidisciplinary works feature women and community at the center. Her vibrant murals can be found around D.C., and now in the Museum Shop where a selection of her smaller works are also on sale.

Rose Jaffe and the NMWA mural, photo by Adriana Regalado

Rose Jaffe and the NMWA mural, photo by Adriana Regalado

What is the inspiration behind the NMWA murals?

I want my art to bring color, energy, light, and meaning to a space. The powerful and vibrant women around me inspire my work. I am intrigued by the lines of a face and the stories our bodies tell. By painting larger-than-life portraits of everyday women, I celebrate and honor their existence.

You work in a wide array of mediums—how have you become so versatile?

I have an insatiable appetite for learning and playing with new mediums. More than anything, I tire of paint after a certain point and want to switch it up. I am working on 3D forms now—sculpture, exploring more wood and metal. It’s very exciting to me. I love how art can exist in so many mediums, almost like languages, telling the same story.

What drives the strong thread of activism in your work?

I was lucky to be raised by socially aware parents who took me to marches and rallies in my youth. I stayed engaged in college, and joined an activist collective of artists upon returning to D.C., which influenced me to use my art for a purpose. Art is an amazing conduit for us to build community, create connections, and process and heal trauma. I am passionate about this and always learning how art can spread messages of social empowerment and social change.

Can you name a notable visit to NMWA?
I know I came as a kid, and I remember visiting after college. But my most memorable experience was attending a Fresh Talk featuring the artist Swoon. I got to meet her and fangirl a bit. I cannot express how amazing NMWA’s programming is—and how important the existence of this museum is.

Which women artists are you inspired by right now?

Oh, so many! Painter Lynnea Holland Weiss, artist-activist Kate DeCiccio, illustrator Sara Andreasson, and painter Jessalyn Brooks, to name a few.

2018 Holiday Gift Guide

It’s no secret: NMWA’s Museum Shop is a local favorite for fun, funky, and fresh gifts from women owned companies around the world. We rounded up our favorite products to help you find last-minute gifts for the art-loving feminists in your lives.

Visit the shop Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–5 p.m., and Sunday 12 p.m. –5 p.m., and buy select products online.

Museum members receive a 10% discount on purchases both in-store and online.

For the Fierce Feminist

1. “Girls Do It Better” T-Shirt  ($35)

2. Little Box of Feminist Flair ($9.95)

3. Guerrilla Girls Bandanna ($22)

4. Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit  ($12.95)

5. Retro Venus Magnet ($6)

6. “Woman Power” Stainless Steel Water Bottle ($26)


For the Fashion-Forward

NMWA’s first fashion exhibition, Rodarte, is on view November 10, 2018-February 10, 2019.

1. Aperture Magazine “Fashion” Issue, Fall 2014 ($24.95)

2. Rodarte “Radarte” Sweatshirt ($90)

3. Small Embroidered Pouch ($21)

4. Leather Bead Adjustable Necklace ($48)

5. Zass Design Earrings ($46)

6. Fashion Oracles Card Deck ($14.99)

For the Art Buff

1. Radical Women: Latin American Art, 1960-1985 ($60)

2. Frida Kahlo Earrings ($22)

3. Mickalene Thomas Pocket Mirror ($28)

4. Louise Bourgeois Tea for One Set ($62)

5. Yayoi Kusama Print ($32)

For the D.C. Native

Shop small, buy local from these beloved D.C. brands.

1. “Do Not Touch the Artwork” T-Shirt – District of Clothing ($28)

2. Lotus Blossom Candle – Handmade Habitat ($28)

3. “Like a Lady Boss” Print – Grey Moggie Press ($33)

4. Frida Kahlo Kids Shoes – AuggieFroggy ($37)

5. Mini Leather Wallet – Stitch and Rivet ($50)

6. Small Ceramic Bowl – Tin Tin’s Pieces ($32.50)

7. Bandanna – Printed Wild ($22)

Modern Makers: Jess Rotter

L.A.-based illustrator/artist Jess Rotter collaborated with NMWA, Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, and custom design studio Third Drawer Down to create a set of paper dolls featuring Rodarte fashions. Buy them from the Museum Shop and learn more about her process and inspiration:

Jess Rotter, photo by Michael Reich

Jess Rotter, photo by Michael Reich

Can you describe your work?

I’m best known for paying homage to music of the 1960s and ’70s (Grateful Dead, Yusuf/Cat Stevens, Harry Nilsson, Judee Sill) through my scribbles. In 2007, I started a T-shirt line called “Rotter and Friends” and that shepherded my work into more exposure. Recently I have branched out to working in more diverse areas of entertainment, fashion, and editorial, but am still a big record nerd at heart.

How did you get started?

I have always been an artist, and studied painting at Syracuse University. When abroad for a semester in London, I got my first job designing graphics, for a streetwear label for girls called Birdie, and that was my first foray into the world of merchandise and fashion.

What is a typical work day like for you?

I love being home in the quiet morning, making a chemex’d pot of coffee, taking in the news, and having daydreams, before reality strikes and it’s time to get to work! I usually put a record on or listen to an old ’70s radio show while I draw or paint. The projects change every day. I’m grateful to have a freelance routine, as it has taken me many years to get to this place.

What inspires you?

I love old album covers, comics, and magazines. I cherish wine-filled talks with friends where we share creative ideas and discuss the state of the world. That in-person camaraderie is the good stuff.

Can you name a female artist whose work you love?

So many that it is hard to pick! But the recent retrospective of Aline Kominsky-Crumb’s comics, Love That Bunch, is hitting home…perhaps because I am also a sarcastic Long Island Jewess. Her work is so honest and needs to be recognized more.

How did you begin this collaboration with Rodarte?

I’ve been close friends with Kate and Laura for over a decade and we always look for projects we can work on together. It’s hard to find friends who you can belly laugh and philosophize with at the same time, and those two have been very important souls to me. I have followed their work closely all these years, and their collections forever inspire. The process was pretty natural, just them calling me asking to draw their amazing dresses. The answer was immediately, “Duh!”