About Us and Our Mission

Founded in 1897

NLAPW Headquarters, the historic Pen Arts Building

The National League of American Pen Women, Inc. (NLAPW)  was founded in 1897 when women journalists were not permitted to join male-only professional organizations. The League became a professional organization for women writers, artists and composers, where they could be recognized for their talents.

We are proud of the NLAPW headquarters, The Pen Arts Building and Art Museum, and its place among other historic buildings in Dupont Circle, a popular tourist destination in Washington, D.C.

NLAPW’s Mission

“The mission of the League, a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) corporation, is to encourage, recognize, and promote the production of creative work of professional standard in art, letters, and music, and through outreach activities provide educational, creative, and professional support to members and non-members in these disciplines. The core values of the NLAPW are respect, knowledge, creation, and preservation of the arts.”

Our Members

New members of the Pensacola Branch

Our members are journalists, painters, choreographers, sculptors, illustrators, songwriters, poets — just to mention a few of the creative fields we encompass.

Throughout our history of 120-plus years, active NLAPW members such as Vinnie Ream, Eudora Welty, Pearl Buck, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amy Beach, and Carrie Jacobs Bond have illustrated how deep, strong, and meaningful the contribution of women’s voices, minds and hands are to the arts.

Today, the NLAPW has 81 branches in 35 states and many members-at-large. There are over 1,600 professional women artists, writers, composers, and choreographer members of the League, some in large cities such as New York, Atlanta, the San Francisco Bay area, and Honolulu; and others in rural areas, such as Vermont, the Dakotas, and Hawaii. From Mississippi Delta public schools to Boca Raton women’s correctional facilities, from Hawaii’s Girls Court to after-school centers in Washington, D.C., Pen Women have experienced first-hand the personal enrichment that comes from arts engagement.

Learn how to join

Our Headquarters

The Pen Arts Building and Art Museum is a historic building, a house once occupied by Robert Todd Lincoln, President Lincoln’s oldest son. The art museum displays works by women artists through permanent and temporary art exhibits, and houses a library archiving the creative works of NLAPW members. The former mansion is a wonderful setting for concerts and recitals, educational seminars and publishing activities, all of which serve to promote women artists and their writer and composer colleagues.

Pen Arts is open to the public Monday through Friday. Free formal tours of the art exhibits are offered during open hours, as well as on the weekend by appointment.

Learn more about Pen Arts

Our Roots

Vinnie Ream’s Lincoln sculpture

One of the earliest members of the organization was sculptress Vinnie Ream. In an era when women artists were not considered important, she, nevertheless, won the Congressional commission in 1866 at age 18 to carve the marble statue of Abraham Lincoln that stands in the rotunda of the U.S. Capitol. She made a bust of Lincoln, working with him in the White House before his assassination, and used it as the basis for the statue after his death.

The first meeting of The League of American Pen Women was organized by Marian Longfellow O’Donoghue (yes, Henry’s niece), who wrote for newspapers in Washington, D.C. She invited fellow journalists Margaret Sullivan Burke and Anna Sanborn Hamilton to join her in establishing a “progressive press union” for the female writers of Washington.

Other famous women who have been members of the organization include Grandma Moses, Georgia O’Keeffe, Pearl S. Buck, Eleanor Roosevelt, Maya Angelou, Rosalyn Carter, and Hillary Clinton, to name a few.

Read more about our history

Support NLAPW

The NLAPW has a legacy of support for women in the arts and in arts education. Women writers, artists, and musicians everywhere need your support! Please help us continue to bring national recognition to creative women artists everywhere.