Our country’s rich history is filled with awe-inspiring stories and rich characters. Yet, too often when we tell these stories and celebrate our history, women are mere footnotes or simply left out altogether.
Consider the story of Sybil Ludington. In 1777, when the outlook for colonial victory in the American Revolutionary War was bleak, 16-year old Sybil Ludington rode her horse through villages in New York and Connecticut to warn that the British were coming. Sybil road twice the distance as Paul Revere’s famous ride and was less than half his age at the time. Her warnings helped American militia drive the British from the Connecticut, yet few people know her story. And Sybil is not alone. There are countless more women just like Sybil who have been anonymous to generations of Americans and have been lost to history. It’s time to change that.
Along with Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), I have introduced a bill to build a new Smithsonian museum on our National Mall dedicated to American women’s history. Just as our other great museums and historical memorials do, the collected stories of amazing women in a Smithsonian Women’s History Museum would remind us of our noblest ideals. Stories of real women, often from humble origins, would inspire and uplift a rising generation. Engaging stories of trailblazers, from Abigail Adams to Kristi Yamaguchi, and from Harriet Beecher Stowe to Rosa Parks, would remind young women facing obstacles of their own, that persistence and courage can overcome seemingly impossible odds.
I’ve been at this for nearly 20 years, but now we’re closer than ever to making this museum a reality. Our bill, numbered HR 19 in honor of the 19th Amendment granting women the right to vote, now has the support of a majority of the House of Representatives. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Diane Feinstein (D-CA) have introduced a similar bill in the Senate. At a time of deep, partisan divisions, the proposal to build a national women’s history museum has united liberals and conservatives from all across the country.
Telling the full story of our nation’s history is not just the right the thing to do. Research has found that women are inspired by seeing other women in leadership roles, challenging the status quo and breaking new barriers. Yet, right now, of the 210 statues in the U.S. Capitol, only nine are of women. Of the 2,400 national historic landmarks in the country, only five percent document women’s achievements. In failing to tell our country’s full story we are failing to help women reach their full potential, and as a result our country is failing to reach its full potential.
I’m looking forward to the day when young girls and boys talk about our founding fathers and mothers. I’m looking forward to the day when every child knows the story of Sybil Ludington, Debora Sampson, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Hedy Lamarr. America is still the greatest country on Earth. I think we can be even greater by finally build this long overdue museum on our national mall that tells the full story of America’s remarkable women.
A museum that presents role models to young women and men that clearly says: “someone like me can be successful,” and that with perseverance and courage, they can be downright amazing.