By Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.) - 07/31/13 10:33 PM EDT
Many Americans have heard of Nathan Hale, an undercover spy and hero during the Revolutionary War. But they should also know about “355”— the code for “lady” in the Culper Ring encryption system — a still-unknown woman who was an undercover agent who supplied Gen. George Washington with critical information on British transgressions in the New York area during that same war.
Most Americans can probably identify Susan B. Anthony as a suffragette who fought for the right of women to vote. But did you know that the first woman to cast a vote was Lydia Chapin Taft of Uxbridge, Mass., who as a property owner, after her husband and son died, was allowed to vote on Oct. 30, 1756, on the issue of critical financial support of the French and Indian War?
But there is no museum in our nation’s capital that honors the full scope of American history: the amazing, brilliant, courageous, innovative and defiant women who have helped to make this country what it is.
It’s time to change that.
That’s why I’ve introduced a bill, along with Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), to establish a federal commission to study the potential creation of a National Women’s History Museum. The bill, H.R. 863, would require the commission to submit to the president and Congress a report containing recommendations for the establishment and maintenance of a National Women’s History Museum in Washington, D.C., on or close to the National Mall. The bill has 32 bipartisan co-sponsors.
As currently envisioned, the museum would be funded entirely and operated by a nonprofit organization, the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM).
The NWHM would not cost taxpayers a dime, and would pay fair market value for the property; raise all the funds needed for construction and operating costs; apply to the Smithsonian for an affiliation; and borrow objects from the Smithsonian’s collections for use in exhibitions.
If the museum is built, it would be the first museum in any nation’s capital to focus on the contributions of women. When the NWHM is open and operating, it will inform, inspire and empower all those who visit its halls, especially young women, for generations to come.
A survey of 18 history textbooks found that only 10 percent of the individuals identified in the texts were women. Less than 5 percent of the 2,400 national historic landmarks chronicle the achievements of women. And, of the 217 statues in the U.S. Capitol, only 12 are of female leaders.
The creation of a National Women’s History Museum is long overdue.
I encourage you to join me in supporting this effort for the sake of all those amazing women in your own life. Join me in helping to write some of the missing chapters of our shared history. Join me, and make your mother proud.
Maloney has represented New York’s 12th Congressional District in the House of Representatives since 1993. She sits on the Financial Services and the Oversight and Government Reform committees.