September 13, 2021

National Trust Grants and Celebrating Women-Related Preservation Projects

The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s campaign for “Where Women Made History” aims to identify, honor, and elevate places across the country where women have changed their communities and the world. Granting funds to preservation projects is one way that the National Trust follows through with this vision. In 2019 and 2020, about 20 percent of the grant applications submitted to the National Trust were for projects related to women or projects that had the potential to relate to women.

During the summer of 2021, my intern project involved analyzing the applications submitted during the 2019-20 grant cycle. The purpose of this analysis was to figure out what types of projects receive most of the National Trust funding and where there is a need for more funding, specifically relating to women’s history projects. It is important for the National Trust to know how grant money is spent so they can ensure that underrepresented groups are being supported financially in their preservation work.

As I reviewed the data, I was able to make two high-level conclusions. As I reviewed the data, I found that projects related to Latinx, Native American, LGBTQ, Asian and Pacific Islander American history was heavily underrepresented in the grant applicant pool. While the National Trust receives applications for and funds projects that tell the stories of significant women, they also fund preservation projects from women-led organizations, and projects whose current use benefits women.

With this knowledge, the National Trust will work towards creating a more equitable and inclusive grant process.

To get a better sense of the types of women’s history-related projects that are funded, here are examples of projects from 2019 and 2020 that highlight the different ways that women’s stories are being told.

Exterior of Alice Austen House. | Credit: Floto + Warner

Project Name: Telling Our Story: Redesigning Marketing Approaches to Share a New Interpretation
Organization: Friends of Alice Austen House
Location: Staten Island, New York
Grant: Johanna Favrot Fund for Historic Preservation
Amount Awarded: $7,500

The Alice Austen House Museum (AAH) is the most traditional of the projects highlighted here because its primary preservation focus is to tell the story of a historically significant woman. The Alice Austen House is the historic home of photographer Alice Austen, and it is the only museum in America dedicated to sharing the story and work of a singular female photographer. Austen was a street photographer from the late 19th century to the early 20th century and is known to have lived with her life partner, Gertrude Tate, for 50 years. By showing and interpreting Austen’s work, the museum connects the past to contemporary social issues, including immigration, feminism, LGBTQ interests, and urban development.

The National Trust funding for the Alice Austen House Museum has gone toward a campaign to re-envision the way the museum presents Austen’s story. By updating museum installations and the museum website, AAH will ensure that it engages a more diverse audience, expands the public’s accessibility to the house, and makes more of a comprehensive connection between Austen’s work and LGBTQ, women’s, and immigrant history.

Women of Route 66. Credit: Katrina Parks

Project Name: Route 66 Women: The Untold Story of the Mother Road
Organization: Cinefemme
Location: Santa Monica, California
Grant: National Trust Preservation Fund
Amount Awarded: $5,000

Cinefemme primarily sponsors diverse women filmmakers through project support, mentorship, community, and professional opportunities. The Route 66 Women: The Untold Story of the Mother Road project “is a documentary film series that uncovers the extraordinary lives and achievements of women who overcame gender discrimination and segregation to build fulfilling lives for themselves and generations to come on America’s most iconic highway.”

Some of the women depicted in the documentary are Bertha Parker Pallan Cody, the first Native American female archaeologist; Alberta Ellis, a Black American entrepreneur and hotel owner; and Fabiola Cabeza de Baca, an educator, activist, and author. Cinefemme and the project director, Katrina Parks, worked to show the female perspective of the iconic Route 66 highway. This project is unique because not only does it highlight a diverse array of women throughout the history of Route 66, but the film was created by a women-centered organization.

Funding from the National Trust’s National Preservation Fund was used to create sections of the film series pertaining to the Southwest Museum in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, including licensing of archival images and video recording and editing. Because of grant funding from the National Trust, director Katrina Parks was able to present the film series at locations along Route 66 in California and at California State University.

Project Name: YWCA Laniākea Structural Assessment and Testing
Organization: Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) O'ahu
Location: Honolulu
Grant: National Trust Preservation Fund
Amount Awarded: $4,700

The YWCA O'ahu is an organization dedicated to empowering women historically and today. The YWCA Laniākea was designed by renowned female architect Julia Morgan in 1927 and is the only one of her YWCA buildings that still serves its original purpose. Not only is the architecture of the Laniākea YWCA historically significant for its association with Julia Morgan, but the use of the building has historically been women-centered and continues to be so today. Since the early 20th century, the YWCA O'ahu has provided a place of refuge and community for women and girls through programming and services like leadership development, health and wellness, and economic advancement.

The National Trust Preservation Fund grant supported testing, assessment, and documentation of the condition of the YWCA Laniākea’s reinforced concrete floor and foundation. The structural investigation will inform the design and construction planning for repairs and preservation of the historic building, which will ensure that the building can continue to serve as a long-term valuable resource to the women of O'ahu.

In the past two years, the National Trust for Historic Preservation has funded a wide variety of women-related projects, from historic sites that tell the stories of important women of our past, to adaptively reused buildings that serve women-focused organizations of today, to preservation projects that are spearheaded and run by women-led organizations.

Based on my grant analysis, the next step is for the National Trust to consider how it can better engage and ease the obstacles for organizations that are working on projects that deal with Latinx, Native American, Black, Asian and Pacific Islander American’s, and LGBTQ women. Moving forward with the campaign for “Where Women Made History,” the National Trust can use the quantifiable evidence from my summer research to prove that there is a need for more funding for women-related projects, key to fulfilling the National Trust’s vision to tell the full American story.

Winter Roybal is a 2019 Mildred Colodny Scholar Diversity Scholarship recipient. She graduated with her MS in Historic Preservation from the University of Colorado Denver in May 2021.

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By: Winter Roybal

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