The American story is rarely told in its full complexity. In our nation’s schools, textbooks, museums, public parks, holidays, historic celebrations and even postage stamps, the accomplishments and experiences of America’s women are significantly under-represented. This under-representation affects not only our modern comprehension of women’s experiences and their historical context, but also leaves us with an incomplete understanding of the intricate dynamics of our nation’s history in general, thereby impacting our entire population, men and women alike.
The Congressional Commission on the American Museum of Women’s History has been tasked to develop an independent, bi-partisan plan that highlights these themes and stories, make recommendations on a future museum’s location in our nation’s capital, and contemplates how it might be financed, operated, and maintained. The Commission presented its official report to Congress addressing these questions in a way that was inclusive, feasible, and thorough.
Making a Case for an American Museum of Women’s History
According to the US Census, in 1910 48% of America’s population was made up of women. In the 2010 Census, that percentage rose to 51%. Acknowledging that women have consistently made up roughly half of our population, we consider the following statistics:
Show me the money!
What these statistics do not convey, however, is that throughout American history women have consistently defied odds to contribute to this country’s character. For example, Sybil Ludington, who in 1777 at the age of 16 rode twice as far as Paul Revere to warn that the British were coming, is seldom known to any American of any age. Telling these heretofore unknown stories will encourage and inspire as well as educate. A women’s history museum is needed in order to take a broad look at women’s civic, political, cultural and social contributions to the United States, and reflect the full range of their experiences.
Congress asked the Commission to address the following issues in its report:
- Availability and cost of collections to be acquired and housed in the Museum.
- The impact of the Museum on regional women’s history-related museums.
- Potential locations for the Museum in Washington, DC, and its environs.
- Whether the Museum should be part of the Smithsonian Institution.
- The governance and organizational structure from which the Museum should operate.
- Best practices for engaging women in the development and design of the Museum.
- The cost of constructing, operating, and maintaining the Museum.
- The development of a viable fundraising plan through contributions from the private sector in perpetuity without reliance on appropriations of Federal funds.
In developing the fundraising plan, the Commission considered the future role of the existing virtual museum – the National Women’s History Museum (a nonprofit, educational organization).
See full report for further details.