Although it’s only a tiny piece of bright pink ribbon, an enterprising American woman, who headed a cosmetics empire, used her ingenuity to make that pink ribbon a world-recognized symbol of the battle against beast cancer, which although it affects mostly women — also affects men. Entrepreneur Evelyn Lauder’s campaign, was launched in 1992 using her Estée Lauder global brand resources.

Because that health campaign is part of America’s history and culture, publicity objects used to draw attention to breast cancer awareness were recently added as artifacts to the existing “Giving in America: Philanthropy’s Impact on American Life” third floor exhibit at the National Museum of American History (NMAH), part of the Smithsonian Museums complex in Washington.

All Smithsonian museums are free admission.

The “Giving” exhibit tracks Americans’ generous giving history to diverse organizations by titans such as Andrew Carnegie; and the evolution toward philanthropy for health-related causes. As a local example, The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston includes public and private philanthropic donors.

As I studied the new exhibit of historical objects, including a 1993 donation card with enamel pink ribbon and commemorative coins and papers, two female tourists, immediately recognizing the pink ribbon symbol, paused as well, emotionally recounting their personal battles with the disease.

The Smithsonian’s American Women’s History Initiative #BecauseofHerStory also highlights women’s labor with “All Work, No Pay: A History of Women’s Invisible Labor,” which opened in March on the NMAH main floor. The exhibit uses the vehicle of women’s clothing style to show how women’s work place moved from the home (aprons and house-dresses as attire) to manufacturing jobs (uniforms), and in the 1970s to office work (suits and dresses).

But as women’s opportunity and clothing changed, equal pay still hasn’t.

According to the exhibit, U.S. Labor Department’s statistics from 2013 document that women on average still earn less than men: 80 cents to every dollar men are paid.

But 2019 held one dramatic national change for women right at NMAH.

Anthea M. Hartig, who spoke at the Estée Lauder event, is the first woman ever to hold the NMAH director position since the museum opened in 1964.

Janice Law is a columnist for The Daily News. Have a travel question? Email

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