It took 15 years, but the National Women’s History Museum (NWHM), a 501(c)(3) organization founded in 1996, has finally scored a victory in its effort to build a world-class museum on the National Mall. NWHM is dedicated to “preserving, interpreting and celebrating the diverse historic contributions of women, and integrating this rich heritage fully into our nation’s history.”
The legislation was co-sponsored by Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Representative Marsha Blackburn (R-TN).
Though HR863 passed in the House in May and S398 in the senate last week, this legislation has been introduced and failed every year since 1999. In 2010, comments from the opposition said it “duplicates more than 100 existing entities that have a similar mission,” referring to a list of entities that included the Quilters Hall of Fame in Indiana and the National Cowgirl Museum in Texas.
Though there was opposition to the idea of a National Women’s History Museum this year, the bill was embedded in the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act and was passed. Both the commission and the museum will be privately funded. NWHM is committed to hiring a female architect, which will make this the first museum on the National Mall designed by a woman. Once the museum is established, NWHM will apply to become a Smithsonian affiliate. Currently, NWHM maintains online exhibits on their website.
In November, SWE took part in a NWHM event entitled, Breaking In: Women & STEM, Then and Now. This was a program that examined the historical and contemporary aspects of women’s participation in STEM education and careers as well as its impact on American society. Presenters included professor Regina Morantz-Sanchez from the University of Michigan History Department, Eleanor Clift, contributing editor for Newsweek and blogger for The Daily Beast, Mimi Lufkin, CEO of the National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE) and Becky L. Schergens, national advisor, NWHN.
Joan Wages, NWHM’s President & CEO commented, “The bipartisan nature by which this legislation was introduced and passed serves as testament to women’s ability to set aside differences and come together to work for the common good. It is what women have done throughout history.”
SWE will continue to work with the coalition, contributing our knowledge and expertise to help develop the museum’s exhibits, which will feature the history of women in STEM. The White House recently developed a campaign entitled The Untold History of Women in Science and Technology. You can share your history on their website and you can also send your stories to us.