Exploring American Girlhood through 50 Historic Treasures

Who are the girls that helped build America?

Conventional history books shed little light on the influence and impact of girls’ contributions to society and culture. This oversight is challenged by Girl Museum and their team, who give voices to the most neglected, yet profoundly impactful, historical narratives of American history: young girls.

Exploring American Girls’ History through 50 Historic Treasures showcases girls and their experiences through the lens of place and material culture. Discover how the objects and sites that girls left behind tell stories about America that you have never heard before. Readers will journey from the first peoples who called the continent home, to 21st century struggles for civil rights, becoming immersed in stories that show how the local impacts the global and vice versa, as told by the girls who built America. Their stories, dreams, struggles, and triumphs are the centerpiece of the nation’s story as never before, helping to define both the struggle and meaning of being “American.”

This full-color book is a must-read for those who yearn for more balanced representation in historic narratives, as well as an inspiration to young people, showing them that everyone makes history. It includes color photographs of all the treasured objects explored

Table of Contents


9500 BCE to 1590s CE – In Search of ‘Home’

  1. Xaasaa Na’ (Upward Sun River), Alaska
  2. Hā’ena State Park, Kaua’i, Hawai’i
  3. Mound 72, Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site, Collinsville, Illinois
  4. “The Display with Which a Queen Elect is Brought to the King”
  5. Virginia Dare Monument, Roanoke, North Carolina


1600 to 1760s – Her and Me: Otherness in the New World

  1. Pocahontas Statue, Jamestown, Virginia
  2. Samuel Parris Archaeological Site, Danvers, Massachusetts
  3. Mary Wright’s Sampler
  4. Mary Jemison Statue, Letchworth State Park, New York
  5. Phillis Wheatley Statue, Boston, Massachusetts


1770s to 1840s – Becoming “American”

  1. Anna Greene Winslow’s Diary
  2. Sybil Ludington Statue, Carmel, New York
  3. Sacajawea Statue, Salmon, Idaho
  4. Bill of Sale for a Girl Named Clary and Runaway Advertisement for Harriet Tubman
  5. Pantaloons
  6. Patty Reed’s Doll


1850s to 1860s – Reckoning

  1. Lime Rock Light House, Newport, Rhode Island
  2. Belle Boyd House, Martinsburg, West Virginia
  3. Reminiscences of My Life in Camp by Susie King Taylor
  4. “Vinnie Ream at Work”
  5. Poems and Translations by Emma Lazarus


1870s to 1910s – Hope

  1. “Group in Bathing Costumes” by Alice Austen
  2. Water Pump at Ivy Green, Alabama
  3. Statue of Annie Moore, Ellis Island, New York
  4. Portrait of Georgia Rooks Dwelle


1870s to 1910s – Strife

  1. Photograph of Princess Kai’ulani
  2. “Indian Girls dressed for a ball game”
  3. “Sadie Pfeifer” by Lewis Hines
  4. Dormitory at Angel Island, California


1910s to 1940s – Becoming “Modern” American Girls

  1. Girl Scout Pledge Card
  2. Paper Doll of Clara Bow
  3. Cashay Sanitary Puffs
  4. “Stand Up and Cheer” Dress worn by Shirley Temple
  5. “Jumping Rope on Sidewalk” by Edwin Rosskam


1940s to 1950s – Voices

  1. Elizabeth Kikuchi’s Letter to Clara Breed
  2. Seventeen Magazine
  3. Patty-Jo Doll
  4. Monument to the Westminster Case Children, Westminster, California
  5. Transportation Token from Montgomery, Alabama
  6. Barbie Teen-Age Fashion Model


1960s to 1970s – Revolutions

  1. “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?” by The Shirelles
  2. Kachina Doll
  3. Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  4. Mary Beth Tinker’s Black Armband
  5. “Peggy Oki” by Pat Darrin


1980s to Present – Girl Power

  1. Selena Quintanilla Memorial, Corpus Christi, Texas
  2. Dominique Dawes’s Leotard
  3. Rookie Yearbook One
  4. GoldieBlox and the Spinning Machine
  5. Letter by Anna Lee Rain Yellowhammer and Photograph of Mari Copeny
Book cover, Exploring American Girlhood through 50 Historic Treasures
Photograph of page of a book showing statue of Phyllis Wheatley

Phillis’s works constitute the first direct source of information on Black girls in America. Scholars combine her poetry and letters with other evidence from childhood studies and social history to reveal these experiences. Phillis is the only well-documented Black girl during the Revolutionary Period, when about 10% of Boston’s population was Black. Her poetry and publications provide evidence that Blacks were only noted by white chroniclers when they surpassed racial stereotypes and proved adherence to white cultural standards of achievement.

Exploring American Girlhood, Chapter 10


Meticulously researched and captivating, Exploring American Girlhood through 50 Historic Treasures illustrates and elevates the cultural impact and historical legacies of girls through art, stories, and artifacts. This book showcases girls’ contributions, resilience, courage, and agency in a way that will give readers a new respect for girls – and empower girls to assert their vital position in society.

Jessica R. VanLanduyt

senior vice president of guest experiences, Atlanta History Center

While “treasures” may conjure up images of crown jewels, the focus here is on day-to-day objects, homes, and occasionally the bones of the girls themselves. […] The authors faced an incredible challenge in choosing only 50 entries and have succeeded in showcasing a vast range of the American experience of girlhood.


America Library Association

I love this book, starting with the smell which smells like the rare, fancy books I found in our local library. Much more important, of course, is the level of scholarship, quality of the writing and photographs. I had no idea that you would tell the story through objects. Absolutely brilliant. Congratulations of the highest order are due you. I’ve collected a few of this sort of book over the years, but your technique is superior as you’ve created a path through the history with the objects. The others more-or-less stuck with collection content and didn’t create an overarching narrative, as you have so brilliantly.

Mary Case


Material history so often gets left out of a lot of historiography; this book does an excellent job of situating artifacts back into their proper importance. There were some sources here that I was familiar with, others not. This is a book that can be read from cover to cover or non-sequentially. I can imagine many undergrad classes using this volume to shed light on the changing nature of girlhood within the wider context of American history.

Brandon Westlake

Remer and Isselhardt bring together a fascinating collection of historic sites, archaeological evidence, artifacts, literature, and music to tell the rich and complex story of girlhood in America. Readers will enjoy the stories of familiar treasures they may recognize from their own childhood while being challenged to consider their lives against the sweeping backdrop of millenia of girl culture in North America. This groundbreaking book gives voice to American girls from diverse backgrounds and epochs, restoring historical agency to these traditionally marginalized groups.

Susan A. Fletcher

director of History and Archives, The Navigators

About the Authors

Ashley E. Remer is the founder and Head Girl of Girl Museum—the first and only museum in the world dedicated to celebrating girlhood. She holds a first class MA in the History and Criticism of Art from the University of Auckland. Ashley has worked internationally as an art historian, writer, editor, curator, and critic. She has collaborated with artists, NGOs, scholars, educators, and girls across the globe, examining girl culture and sharing it to raise awareness and promote change. Her research focuses on girlhood in various contexts, having curated exhibitions on girls in the British Empire, New Zealand, Japan, and more. Among her publications are numerous articles, including ‘Girl Museum: An International Project’ (Girlhood Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol.3 No.2, March 2011) and ‘Becoming- Girl-Museum’ (Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge, No. 22, Summer 2011). She is also the co-chair of the Girls’ History and Culture Network.

Tiffany R. Isselhardt serves as Girl Museum’s Program Developer, where she oversees exhibitions, podcasts, community outreach, and social media. She holds a Master’s in Public History from Appalachian State University, and has previously worked with the Hickory Ridge Living History Museum, Blowing Rock Art and History Museum, Theodore Roosevelt Center, Museum Hack, and the Kentucky Museum at Western Kentucky University. Her research focuses on uncovering the hidden history of women in order to advocate for gender equality, and her publications include contributions to Women in American History: A Social, Political, and Cultural Encyclopedia (ABC-CLIO, 2017), Technical Innovation in American History: An Encyclopedia of Science and Technology (ABC-CLIO, 2018), The Museum Blog Book (MuseumsEtc Ltd., 2017), and the Tuckasegee Valley Historical Review.

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