Mary Ruthsdotter, co-founder of the National Women’s History Project, was born in 1944 in Fairfield, Iowa. She was raised in a military family, moving often throughout her childhood. In the early 1970s Ruthsdotter attended UCLA, where she became involved with the beginnings of the feminist movement. She was one of the volunteer embroiderers for Judy Chicago's art installation, "The Dinner Party."
When Ruthsdotter moved to Sonoma County, California in 1977, she attended a slideshow on American women’s history presented by Molly MacGregor, Bette Morgan, and Paula Hammett. Ruthsdotter became passionate about bringing women’s history into public consciousness. Along with MacGregor, Hammett, and Morgan, Ruthsdotter co-founded the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) in 1980.
As Projects Director, Ruthsdotter gained funding for materials for students, teachers, librarians, parents, workplace organizers, and the media. She produced curriculum units, organizing guides, teacher training sessions, and videos on women’s history in the U.S. She wrote press releases by the hundreds and compiled packets by the thousands for radio, television, magazines, and newspapers.
When the Women’s History Network was created in 1983, Ruthsdotter linked historians, librarians, performers, and community organizers throughout the country. She was an expert at finding and delivering the information people wanted. Mary Ruthsdotter died in 2010, but her legacy is the grassroots women’s history movement she helped create