U.S. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and U.S. Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) on March 28 introduced a bipartisan, bicameral bill that would establish a comprehensive women’s history museum in the Smithsonian Institution.
The Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum Act, S. 959/H.R. 1980, is sponsored by Sen. Collins and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA). Rep. Fitzpatrick is leading 26 other original cosponsors of H.R. 1980, which is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).
“Telling the history of American women matters and a museum recognizing these achievements and experiences is long overdue,” Sen. Collins said. “A museum dedicated to women’s history would help ensure that future generations understand what we owe to those American women who have helped build, sustain and advance our society.”
Rep. Fitzpatrick pointed out that while women have substantially contributed to society and the nation’s development, only 5 percent of the roughly 2,400 national monuments honor American women.
“As the first museum in the United States dedicated to the full story of women’s history, this museum will tell the diverse story of the women who helped shape America,” said Rep. Fitzpatrick. “It is time for Congress to authorize the creation of a National Women’s History Museum and I’m proud to stand with Congresswoman Maloney and my other colleagues to introduce this legislation.”
If enacted, the Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum Act would establish a 25-member council to recommend planning, design and construction of a museum; to provide advice on the administration, operations, maintenance, and preservation of the museum; to acquire and manage artifacts and collections; and to manage programming, education, exhibits, and research, according to summaries provided by the lawmakers.
The bill also would authorize funding for a museum director who would collaborate with schools and would permit a board of regents to designate a site for the museum in Washington, D.C., among other provisions included in the summary.
“We need a permanent place to showcase the accomplishments and tell the stories of women throughout our country’s history,” said Sen. Feinstein. “A Smithsonian museum would be a fitting and long-overdue way to properly recognize women’s contributions to our nation’s narrative.”
“I believe that one of the most important things we can do is show young women and girls they can be and do anything. How can we empower women if we do not even recognize them?” added Rep. Maloney.
Among the members who joined Rep. Fitzpatrick as an original cosponsor of H.R. 1980 are U.S. Reps. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Andy Barr (R-KY), Will Hurd (R-TX), Mike Turner (R-OH) and Steve Stivers (R-OH).
A congressional commission established by Congress in December 2014 to independently study the potential for this museum unanimously determined in November 2016 that “America needs and deserves a physical national museum dedicated to showcasing the historical experiences and impact of women in this country. The future museum should be called the American Museum of Women’s History (AMWH),” according to an executive summary of the commission’s report.
Jane Abraham, chairwoman of the American Museum of Women’s History Congressional Commission, said she supports the newly introduced bill “that took our commission’s recommendations to make this museum a reality.”
H.R. 1980 has been referred for consideration to three U.S. House of Representatives committees: House Administration, Natural Resources, and Transportation and Infrastructure. S. 959 is being reviewed by the U.S. Senate Rules and Administration Committee.