Edith Mayo

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Edith P. Mayo
Edith Mayo at Castle.jpg
Mayo in 1988
Born (1940-03-18) March 18, 1940 (age 82)[1]

Edith P. Mayo (born March 18, 1940) is an American historian.[2] She is curator emerita for political history at the National Museum of American History. Mayo is a subject matter expert on women's suffrage, specifically African American women's suffrage, and the First Ladies of the United States. She has been featured on C-SPAN, CNN,[2] The Morning Call,[3] The Los Angeles Times,[4] PBS,[5] The Baltimore Sun,[6] and The Washington Post regarding her areas of focus.[7] In 2020, she was named an honoree of the National Women's History Alliance.[8]

I think as a nation, we have a very deep-seated ambivalence, even a hostility toward power in the hands of women...

Edith Mayo, Democracy in America: They Don't Bake Cookies, on CNN

Early life and education

Mayo earned her degree in American History from George Washington University. She was a member of Phi Beta Kappa.[9]


Mayo in 1977 at the Alice Paul Memorial March commememorating the Woman suffrage parade of 1913 with a banner

Mayo was an adjunct professor at George Washington University, where she taught material culture as part of a co-branded program with the university and the Smithsonian Institution.[10] She is a Distinguished Lecturer for the Organization of American Historians.[10] She serves on the board of the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial.[8] In 1995, she wrote the foreword for Doris Stevens's book Jailed for Freedom: American Women Win the Vote.[11]

Mayo curated Rights for Women at the World Financial Center in 1998 and The Pleasure of Your Company at the Museum of Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. She curated an exhibition about women entrepreneurs, called Enterprising Women, in 2002 for the Schlesinger Library.[10]

Smithsonian Institution

In the 1970s, Mayo was Political History Division Assistant Curator at the National Museum of American History.[12] She eventually transitioned into the position of curator emerita, managing major exhibitions about political history, women's history and voting rights.[8]

Lady Bird Johnson visits the National Museum of American History First Ladies Hall with granddaughter Claudia (left), and museum employees Edith Mayo and Manuel Melendez (on right), 1987

As curator emerita, she curated the major exhibit, From Parlor to Politics: Women and Reform in America, 1890-1925 in 1990 and in 1992 she curated the museum's major exhibition about the First Ladies of the United States: First Ladies exhibition, First Ladies: Political Role and Public Image.[10] The exhibition toured nationally from 2004-2007.[13]


Mayo's book The Smithsonian Book of the First Ladies was published in 1996. Hillary Clinton wrote the foreword.


In March 2015, the Fairfax County, Virginia Board of Supervisors named her an honoree for her work at the Smithsonian. In 2020, she was named an honoree by the National Women's History Alliance.[8]

Selected works

  • The Smithsonian Book of the First Ladies. New York: Henry Holt & Company (1996). ISBN 9780805017519
  • “Teaching the First Ladies Using Material Culture” by Edith P. Mayo, OAH Magazine of History, vol. 15, no. 3, 2001, pp. 22–25. JSTOR[14]
  • First Ladies: Political Role and Public Image by Edith Mayo and Lisa Kathleen Graddy, London: Scala Publishers (2004) ISBN 1857593367


  1. "LC Linked Data Service: Authorities and Vocabularies (Library of Congress)". Library of Congress. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "AllPolitics - Democracy In America '96 -- They Don't Bake Cookies". CNN. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  3. Morse, Diana. "First ladies make history ** Phila. exhibit is so much more than gowns, shoes and handbags". The Morning Call. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  4. Weingarten, Marc (May 20, 2004). "Shoulder to shoulder". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  5. "Online NewsHour: Inaugural Fashion". PBS. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  6. Tan, Cheryl Lu-Lien. "Criticism befitting a first lady". baltimoresun.com. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  7. Thompson, Krissah. "C-SPAN's series on first ladies begins, but Michelle Obama's legacy is still forming". The Washington Post. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 "2020 Honorees". National Women's History Alliance. Archived from the original on January 15, 2020. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  9. Robert Hieronimus; Laura E. Cortner (August 15, 2016). The Secret Life of Lady Liberty: Goddess in the New World. Simon and Schuster. p. 449. ISBN 978-1-62055-159-2.
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 "Suffragists, Home Economists and First Ladies". The Colorado Chautauqua. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  11. Doris Stevens (1995). Jailed for Freedom: American Women Win the Vote. NewSage Press. ISBN 978-0-939165-25-4.
  12. "Edith Mayo with 1913 Suffrage March Banner". Smithsonian Institution Archives (in English). 1977. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  13. "SITES Community Portal". Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service. Retrieved January 8, 2020.
  14. "Listing". JSTOR 25163437. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

Further reading

  • First Ladies: Presidential Historians on the Lives of 45 Iconic American Women by Susan Swain, New York City: PublicAffairs (2015) pp 77–80. ISBN 1610395662.

External links

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