Nancy Yao Maasbach, the designated founding director of the American Women’s History Museum, has withdrawn from the role, citing “family issues” and recent articles published in The Washington Post.
Recent controversy: The decision, which the Smithsonian confirmed to The New York Times on Wednesday, comes after an investigation into Maasbach’s handling of sexual harassment complaints during her tenure as the leader of the Museum of Chinese in America.
Maasbach’s appointment in March has been under scrutiny since The Washington Post reported on three wrongful-termination lawsuits settled by the Museum of Chinese in America under her leadership.
According to the lawsuits, employees were fired in retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. Maasbach denied the allegations and stated that the decisions were due to budget pressures.
Maasbach explains: In a LinkedIn post, Maasbach began by stating that she decided to leave an opportunity she has “always dreamed of” because her father is currently in hospice care and her family needs her.
“With my father in hospice care and my two wonderful teenagers needing my support, it would be impossible for me to give the project the attention it deserves while also being there for my family,” she wrote.
She then added that the newspaper’s purported misrepresentation of “certain events” also inspired her decision to withdraw from her role.
I want to be honest and mention that another factor influenced my decision—the recent articles in the Washington Post. Unfortunately, they misrepresented certain events, and I feel a responsibility to protect my family from unnecessary stress. Additionally, I’m concerned that if the Washington Post continues with this type of media attention, it could potentially detract from the amazing story that the SAWHM project represents. I cannot allow that to happen.
New director: Maasbach’s withdrawal leaves the Smithsonian in search of a new director who will oversee the development of the museum, a project estimated to cost around $375 million.
Melanie A. Adams, the director of the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, has been appointed as interim director of the women’s history museum while the institution searches for a permanent replacement.
The museum, which is expected to open in approximately 10 years, aims to showcase the historical influence of American women.