In January of 1889, five innovative women, Grace Fitz-Randolph, Edith Mitchell Prellwitz, Adele Frances Bedell, Anita C. Ashley, and Elizabeth S. Cheever, (barred from full participation in the male-dominated National Academy of Design and The Society of American Artists), founded the Women's Art Club.
The organization flourished and in 1913 was renamed the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, reflecting its national influence and the increasing number of women sculptors.
Through the 1920s the organization was sponsoring exhibitions nationally and abroad.
In the 1930s membership grew to over 1,000 and the organization opened its Argent Galleries on 57th Street in New York City.
In 1941 the organization changed its name again to the National Association of Women Artists. Early exhibitions included works by the notable artists Rosa Bonheur, Mary Cassatt, Suzanne Valadon, and Cecelia Beaux. Later, membership rosters included Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, Anna Hyatt Huntington, Louise Nevelson, Cleo Hartwig, Malvina Hoffman, Minna Citron, Alice Neel, Theresa Bernstein, Nell Blaine, and Dorothy Dehner, The NAWA archive contains a wealth of information about American Women artists through the ranks of its membership.