It’s Time for a National Women’s History Museum

4 mins read

If you’ve ever been to Washington, D.C., you likely visited a museum or two. The National Mall offers a dozen free museums, each paying homage to a slice of history and culture. But a museum specifically honoring women’s achievements is noticeably absent from the nation’s capital.

That’s going to change, if Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) has her way. For years, the Congresswoman has been campaigning for a National Women’s History Museum to take its rightful place in D.C. And recent developments in her quest are promising.

Just last month, Rep. Maloney announced that the Smithsonian Women’s History Museum Act ( H.R. 1980) passed a 290-cosponsor threshold with bi-partisan support. Rep. Maloney, the bill’s lead sponsor, has formally requested that it be placed on the consensus calendar.

“For me, it is hard to see how anyone could oppose legislation that will inspire the next generation of American leaders by telling the stories of American women who have shaped our nation,” she said. “ There is no reason this bill should not be supported by every member of the House and Senate. Women are half the population. This is not about politics or partisanship. This is about giving women — all women — their rightful place in history.”

It hardly seems controversial, but Maloney’s efforts have historically faced opposition. Some, like Michelle Bachmann, were downright indignant at the idea of enshrining a “radical feminist agenda,” while others like former Rep. Tom Coburn (R-OK) posited that the Quilters Hall of Fame in Indiana and the National Cowgirls Museum were sufficient.

Spoiler alert: We need more than an homage to quilters. We need a National Women’s History Museum front and center in D.C.

Women — more than half of the country’s population — have made substantial contributions to our nation, from politics to film, to science, diplomacy, art, medicine and so much more. And yet, women’s history — especially marginalized women’s history — is severely under-recognized in textbooks, memorials, museum exhibits and many other cultural and historical venues.

Representation matters, and the impact of representation can have lasting effects. As the saying goes, you can’t be what you can’t see.

GOP Rep. Susan Brooks (IN), one of the bill’s co-sponsors, agrees: “Women deserve to be celebrated and recognized… Establishing a Smithsonian Women’s History Museum for the collection, study and establishment of programs covering the historical contribution of women would honor the significant impact women have made and continue to make in our country while inspiring generations to come.”

Perhaps now more than ever, we deserve this museum. For years, we’ve witnessed self-admitted sexual predators and misogynists fail upwards at astonishing rates. These men hold the highest ranks in our government, in academia, in business and the media, even in a #MeToo era.

Enough. Women and girls deserve more. It’s exhausting having to play whack-a-mole with today’s endless stream of attacks on women; and it would be doubly so if we didn’t have fierce female role models — past and present — to inspire us.

The museums and memorials in our nation’s capital demonstrate what we collectively value. It’s time to send a message to American women and girls that our struggles, our achievements, our history matter.

Originally posted on Medium. Re-posted with permission.


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