Elmira, New York
|Education||Elmira College |
University of Paris
|Known for||National Museum of Women in the Arts|
|Awards||Women's Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award, 2001|
Holladay, known as "Billie", graduated with a degree in art history from Elmira College in 1944 and also studied art at the University of Paris. After working for the United States Air Force and the Embassy of China, she married Wallace Holladay. According to a profile in the Washington Post, in the 1940s she was employed as Madame Chiang Kai-shek's social secretary.
The Holladays began collecting art in the 1950s. On a trip to Europe, they saw and admired paintings by Clara Peeters, and were dismayed to discover that neither Peeters nor any other female artist was mentioned in the leading art texts of the time. From that point, they began specializing in acquiring significant works by female artists such as Élisabeth-Louise Vigée Le Brun, Artemisia Gentileschi, and Angelica Kauffman.
In 1981, Wilhelmina and Wallace Holladay founded the National Museum of Women in the Arts, donating their collection of works by female artists. For the first few years, the collection was housed in the Holladays' home. She had consulted with the art historian Ann Sutherland Harris regarding long-term placement of her private collection, and Harris suggested she found a museum dedicated to women's art. In 1987, the museum acquired a former Masonic temple in Washington, D.C. as its permanent facility. The museum houses a permanent collection of art, presents changing special exhibitions and performances, maintains a library and research center, publishes exhibition catalogues, and offers educational programming.
Wilhelmina Holladay was inducted into the National Women's Hall of Fame in 1996, and was awarded a 2006 National Medal of Arts, and a Foremother Award from the National Center for Health Research. Also in 2006, Wilhelmina Holladay was awarded the Légion d’honneur by the French Government. In 2005, Holladay received a Visionary Woman Award from Moore College of Art & Design. In 2001 Holladay received a Women's Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award.
Holladay has authored the book A Museum of Their Own: National Museum of Women in the Arts, published by Abbeville Press.