Estrogen can influence the expression of behaviors not associated directly with reproduction, including learning and memory. However, the effects of estrogen on learning and memory in mammals are complex, dependent on a variety of factors. The radial arm maze is a traditional experimental task that takes advantage of the natural foraging strategy of rats and provides an appropriate measure for studying the effects of estrogen on working memory in this species. In the experiments reported here, ovariectomized rats were implanted subcutaneously with 5-mm Silastic capsules containing 25% estradiol diluted with cholesterol. Control females received 5-mm Silastic capsules containing 100% cholesterol. Results of three separate experiments demonstrated that estradiol administered by Silastic implants for 30 days prior to eight-arm radial maze training, during the 24 days of maze training, or both significantly improved working memory performance compared to females treated with cholesterol alone, as indicated by improved arm choice accuracy over trials. The positive effect of estradiol exposure prior to training suggests that estrogen may induce neuronal changes that persist beyond the period of exposure with functional consequences for behavior.