Women Win Record Number of National Medals

President Obama will award the 2014 National Medal of Arts and National Humanities Medal to a record number of women this year. For the first time since both medals began to be awarded—in 1997—more than 50 percent of recipients are women.

Out of a total of 18 individuals receiving arts and humanities medals this year (not counting organizations such as The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation that will receive an award), 11 recipients are female. Plus, not only have women won a larger share of prizes, but 11 is also the largest number of women to ever be honored in a single year.

Among the winners are Sally Field, feminist, actor and LGBT-rights advocate; Miriam Colón, a Latina actor who blazed a trail for many other performers of color; and Fedwa Malti-Douglas, a gender studies scholar and author of Men, Women, and God(s), among many other works.

The worst year for women receiving the two prestigious prizes was 2008 (awarded by President George W. Bush) when just one woman received an award—Olivia de Havilland, who portrayed Melanie Hamilton in Gone With the Wind. That year, more organizations than women won awards—seven to one.

President Obama will present the awards at 3 p.m. EST. Click here to watch a live stream.

Photo of National Medal of Arts recipient Sally Field via Shutterstock


Stephanie hails from Toronto, Canada. She is a Ms. writer, a master of journalism candidate and a hip hop dancer/instructor/choreographer. She got her start in feminist journalism at the age of 16 when she was a member of the first editorial collective at Shameless magazine—and she has never looked back.