My love of American history really began in high school.
My favorite teacher made learning exciting and engaging. I was interested, and his teaching made learning easy and fun.
We learned all the required content – the battles and wars, the presidents and their programs, and our society’s social evolution. Now, my memory might be a little foggy with time – I’m sure we must have learned about Clara Barton, Susan B Anthony, and Eleanor Rosevelt. Where were all the other women?
Playing outside my classroom in real-time were incredible women leaders demanding social change. This history was being written as it was happening. Are they in the current American history books? What about all the other women from all the other times throughout our history?
In honor of National Women’s History Month, I’m taking this time to observe, commemorate and celebrate the vital role of women throughout our American history and the critical role of the NWHM to capture and tell the stories of the women who have transformed our nation.
Why Celebrate Women’s History
When we know our history, we can learn and inform our present and our future. We can choose to build on the foundations of the past, bringing forward the lessons that make sense to do so and not the lessons that no longer serve us.
When we do this, we can realize the possibilities of our own lives. This knowing establishes role models, teaches leadership, activism, and encourages self-esteem. Most importantly, it allows both genders to see that gender is not a deciding factor in what we can do.
Each time our children open a book and read a womanless history, they learn a woman is worth less.
What is National Women’s History Month
March is dedicated to National Women’s History Month. This is a time we observe, commemorate, and celebrate women’s vital contributions throughout American history.
What began in 1980 with President Carter’s proclamation of the first National Women’s History Week evolved to a monthly observance in 1987 with Congress’s support and continues today with all succeeding presidents’ support.
“From the first settlers who came to our shores, from the first American Indians who befriended them, men and women have worked together to build this nation. Too often, the women were unsung, and sometimes their contributions went unnoticed. But the achievements, leadership, courage, strength, and love of the women who built America was as vital as that of the men whose names we know so well.” ~ President Jimmy Carter
The National Women’s History Alliance selects and publishes the yearly theme. Given the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment occurred last year during the pandemic, the Alliance has chosen to continue this recognition with this year’s theme, “Valiant Women of the Vote: Refusing to Be Silenced.”
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About the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM)
I first became aware of the NWHM while in Washington, DC, attending the 2010 CARE National Convention. I’ve been a supporter since that time. I donate, I have attended fundraising events, and I have hosted informal introductions in Northern California to advocate and spread the word about the museum and its work. Here are some of the details about this incredible social benefit organization:
- Founded in 1996, the NWHM is a nonpartisan, non-profit 501 (c)(3), and nation’s leading women’s history museum and the most recognized educational institution dedicated to uncovering, interpreting, and celebrating the diverse contributions that women have made to our society through its dynamic online museum, educational programs, scholarship, and research.
- In 1995 the NWHM commissioned a project to relocate the Portrait Monument from the Capitol basement where it had resided for 76 years to the Capitol Rotunda. This statue of Lucretta Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony was carved by Adelaide Johnson and was presented to Capitol Rotunda in 1921, 6 months after the 19th amendment was ratified. The next day, the statue was moved underground to the basement, and Congress ordered the inscription scraped off. The monument was moved on Mother’s Day 1997. https://www.womenshistory.org/articles/moving-women-light
- Their mission is to tell the stories of the women who transformed our nation. They do this through a growing state-of-the-art online presence and a future physical museum to educate, inspire, empower, shape the future, and provide a complete view of American History.
- Their Vision is to build a world-class museum at the National Mall in Washington, D.C., that will show the full scope of women’s contributions to history and set the standard for how those contributions should occupy a prominent place in national discussions.
- Once housed prominently among the other great museums of Washington, D.C., they will apply to the Smithsonian for an affiliation.
- Our Museum will be the first museum in any nation’s capital to show the full scope of its women’s history and will serve as a guiding light to people everywhere.
- Great news – the bipartisan bills recently passed both houses of Congress to establish our museum on the National Mall. The next challenge is to fund this bill making the timeline for implementation uncertain.
Why a Museum Dedicated to Women’s History
Women’s contributions and accomplishments, for the most part, have been overlooked and consequently omitted from mainstream American culture.
An institution dedicated to the many contributions and stories of American women throughout all walks of life will instill a sense of pride and identity in those not used to seeing themselves represented.
- 1:10 figures in modern America History books are women
- 15:217 statues in US Capitol Building are women
- Less than 8% of statues in our National parks are women
- There are 17K Museums in the US, and not one includes the roles and contributions of women to building our Nation
“You can’t be what you can’t see” ~ Marian Wright Edelman, President, Children’s Defense Fund, American civil rights activist
Did You Know
- In 1777, Sybil Ludington, a 16-year-old patriot road approximately 40 miles (twice as far as Paul Revere), to let the New York Militia know the British were coming.
- Actress Heddy LaMarr was also an inventor. She invented a frequency-hoping technology, initially rejected by the US military during WWII, making the cell phone, WiFi, and GPS work today.
- Catherine Littlefield Greene co-invented the revolutionary cotton gin with Eli Whitney. The patent was held in his name only, even though she paid for it!
- The current exhibits dedicated to women at the Smithsonian American History Museum include the First Lady Inaugural dresses and Julia Child’s Kitchen.
Why a physical museum?
“Because buildings are important, not only as symbols but as gathering places, as inspirational spaces. Museums are especially important in Washington D.C., the seat of our national heritage, memorialized in marble and granite, glass and steel. But there is no women’s history museum in Washington. There is a Postal Museum, a Spy Museum, a Crime (and Punishment) Museum, a National Bonsai Museum, and a building that is a Museum of – buildings.” ~ Merle Streep, American Actress, Singer, NWHM Supporter
Your Support Is So Critical!
Now is the time for all of us to help the NWHM fully realize its mission – to become the first museum in any nation’s capital to show the full scope of the history of its women. Together, we can build a physical space to experience, understand, and amplify the pivotal role women play throughout our history.
How Can You Help?
- Become a Member! Share with your family and friends.
- Urge your elected representatives to approve the needed funding for the Women’s History Museum.
- Follow the NWHM on Social Media.
- Request any supportive organizations you are affiliated with to become Coalition Partners.
I acknowledge that I stand on the shoulders of many incredible women that have come before me. Now, as the proud grandmother and great-aunt of amazing, talented, precious young souls, I’m committed more than ever that they and all of our future generations know, understand, and study the full story of American history—the story that includes all the amazing contributions throughout the continued evolution of our nation and our society.
This is our time to make a difference and leave a lasting legacy for all of us and all future generations – let’s make sure these contributions are discovered, recognized, and celebrated.
Let’s all take a stand that this museum is built and operated to immortalize all of these incredible contributions during our lifetime.