Too often, young girls are unaware of role models who are similar to themselves in age and circumstance.  Because they do not know of historic examples, girls too often feel forced to use questionable actresses and singers for their personal inspiration and ambitions.  

Albert Bandura, a noted psychologist and former president of the American Psychological Association, says, “Most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions this coded information serves as a guide for action.”

It is clear that girls need role models to look up to -- not only for everyday behavior, but for career choices as well.  A recent study in the UK found that young people, not just girls, were dissuaded from entrepreneurial endeavors because they could not relate to successful role models.   Even more than boys, though, girls suffer from a lack of worthy examples to emulate.  Numerous studies have found that positive female role models are essential for female students, especially when choosing college majors and a career path that will be satisfying in today’s world.

Another study surveyed more than a thousand mothers and found that 90% “believe there are not enough wholesome role models, celebrities, characters and brands for young girls to emulate.”  A Newsweek poll also found that 77% of Americans believe that celebrities such as Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan have too much influence on girls.

The National Women's History Museum is very pleased to present "Young and Brave: Girls Changing History." Few people know of the extensive impact that numerous young women have had on our country throughout its history.

They do not know of Betty Zane, who, as she ran for ammunition, almost magically defied the arrows of warriors attacking a western Virginia fort.  They’ve never heard of Eliza Pinckney, who managed three plantations as a teenager and transformed the colonial economy with her botanical experiments. 

They may have heard of “Around the World in Eighty Days,” but they think of it as a movie or theme park attraction:  they do not know that, in the Victorian Age, young Nellie Bly attracted huge media attention when she actually traveled around the world in less than eighty days. 

And it’s almost a sure bet that neither the average girl (or boy or man or woman) knows of Anna Dickinson, who spoke to the U.S. House of Representatives -- with President Abraham Lincoln in the audience – when she was barely 21.

Countless young women have embarked on treacherous journeys, invented life-altering products, and set groundbreaking precedents.  The young women profiled in this exhibit are athletes, inventors, artists, and revolutionaries, but they all have one thing in common — they are strong role models for young girls to learn about, look up to, and be inspired by.   They are indeed “Young and Brave.”

This exhibit was researched and written by teenagers with Girls Learn International, Inc.  (Some of the researchers chose to remain anonymous.) The National Women’s History Museum joins Girls Learn in the hope that all viewers – young and old, male and female -- will be inspired by these young women in history.  




Copyright © 2008 National Women's History Museum.