The National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C., has announced a $9 million bequest from founding donor Madeleine Rast, who died in January at the age of 92.
The largest single cash gift in NMWA's thirty-year history will bolster the Legacy of Women in the Arts Endowment, strengthening the museum's mission to bring recognition to the achievements of women artists. According to the Washington Post, when Rast established the bequest in 1986 — before NMWA had opened its doors — it was valued at $2 million. Including her bequest, the Legacy endowment now totals $59 million.
Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Rast moved to California as a young woman, worked in a number of clerical jobs while pursuing a second degree in accounting, and became a successful businesswoman. She never lost sight, however, of the fact that women face a variety of cultural and institutional barriers in pursuing their goals. Before her death, Rast told officials at NMWA that she chose to support the museum because it is an institution that inspires and encourages women in a way that she would have appreciated in her own career. "Giving is a very personal act," she said at the time, "but if you believe as strongly as I do in advancing the cause of women, then there's no question about it."
"Madeleine was absolutely convinced of the importance of establishing a museum for women in the arts. Her conviction never wavered, and over time she became a steadfast advocate for our mission as well as a dear friend," said NMWA founder Wilhelmina Cole Holladay. "Her generous gift to the museum will enable future generations to enjoy the highest standards of exhibitions and programs and help make us more visible throughout the world."