5 Powerful Women at the Museum Whose Stories You Should Know

Watson Adventures Powerful Women MuseumsAncient Roman sculptures. Demure portraits.  Lots and lots and lots of nudes. You might be forgiven if that’s what comes to mind when you think of women and museums, but we can do better than that.

For Women’s History Month, we’ve rounded up pieces of art featuring some of our favorite powerful women from some of our best scavenger hunts. From dragon-slayer to goddess, these women are just a few examples of the countless ladies who deserve all the attention we can give them.


The Famous Miss Cleo

Watson Adventures Powerful Women Museums

Tetradrachm (Coin) Portraying Queen Cleopatra VII

Meet: Cleopatra, queen of the Nile, ruler of Egypt. Maybe you’ve heard of her?

Her Claim to Fame: A symbol of who run the world (girls)

Her Story: When King Ptolemy XII of Egypt died, his son and daughter fought over his throne. Son forced daughter from the country, daughter courted Julius Caesar and raised an army, and finally son fled from daughter’s forces. And so began the 21-year-reign of Queen Cleopatra.

The two sides of this coin depict Cleopatra, seen on the left there, and Mark Antony, her lover and doomed co-leader of the Roman Empire. The fascinating thing about this coin is that Cleopatra’s image is far from the renowned beauty and Elizabeth Taylor–esque glamor of legend. Indeed, theories abound over whether this is an accurate portrayal, or whether she was shown as more mannish to make her easier to understand—after all, power over a kingdom as great as Egypt was a man’s domain. Or, given the clear similarities in nose and chin and neck, is her image influenced by the flip-side face? Is this really Cleopatra, or just Mark Antony in drag? We may never know.


Dragon Lady

Watson Adventures Powerful Women Museums

Saint Margaret and the Dragon

Meet: Saint Margaret, also known as Margaret the Virgin or Margaret of Antioch

Her Claim to Fame: A symbol of the power of remaining true to your beliefs

Her Story: The Metropolitan Museum of Art sums it up nicely for another version of her: “According to legend, St. Margaret was imprisoned for refusing to marry the governor of Antioch. Satan appeared to her in the form of a dragon and swallowed her as she clutched a cross in prayer; she then ripped open his belly with the cross and emerged unscathed. … The vanquished dragon lies at her feet.” Yowzah.


Biblical Barber-ella

Watson Adventures Powerful Women Museums

Delilah, William Wetmore Story

Meet: Delilah, of “Samson and” fame

Her Claim to Fame: A symbol of male cultural anxiety about powerful women 

What’s her story? The beauty of this piece is that you might not even guess at the subject…until you notice the locks of shorn hair at the woman’s feet. Is she ashamed of depriving Samson of his power? Resigned? Unconcerned? And while Delilah’s generally cast as the villain, consider: The rulers of Delilah’s people offered her the modern equivalent of $15 million to learn the secret of a man famed for leaving a path of death and destruction in his wake—and who had slept with a prostitute right before showing up to woo Delilah.


Damn, Diana

Watson Adventures Powerful Women Museums

Diana and Actaeon, Lucas Cranach the Elder

Meet: Diana, goddess of the hunt

Her Claim to Fame: A symbol, in this case, of chastity and purity

Her Story: Depicted countless times throughout art history, the myth of Diana and Actaeon sees the latter, a human hunter, chancing upon the former bathing with nymphs in a forest lake. Startled and outraged at getting peeped in the buff by some rando, Diana splashes Actaeon, turning him into a deer…who then is killed by his own hunting dogs. Harsh? Maybe. But he never “accidentally stumbled” upon any unsuspecting naked women again, so…


Hey Judith, Don’t Be Afraid

Watson Adventures Powerful Women Museums

Judith with the Head of Holofernes, Andrea Mantegna

Meet: Judith, another oft-painted heroine of legend

Her Claim to Fame: A symbol of fearlessness in the face of overwhelming power

Her Story: Long story short, the beautiful widow Judith saved her home from the invading general Holofernes when she faux-seduced him, getting him drunk and then decapitating him. While many depictions focus on the violence of the beheading, this piece skips to the aftermath, as an almost unconcerned Judith casually hands off Holofernes’ noggin and gets on with her day. Respect.



Meet These Women and More

Watson Adventures offers team building scavenger hunts and activities just about anywhere—in your office, at local museums, in your favorite neighborhood—all over the country. On teams, you’ll follow clues to uncover secrets about the places you visit, take creative team photos, work together to solve intricate puzzles, and more. Learn more or contact us about team building scavenger hunts.