Last week, I proudly helped usher the passage of National Women’s History Museum Act of 2009 (H.R. 1700) in the House of Representatives. Sponsored by my friend Representative Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), this landmark bill authorizes the construction of a museum of women’s history on the national mall.
For too long, women have not received their due in the recounting of our country’s historical narrative.
A National Women’s History Museum seeks to remedy this long overdue injustice. Look around Capitol Hill today and you will be hard pressed to find monuments to American women. In fact, only nine statues in the entire 108 statue national collection that adorns Statuary Hall and the Capitol Visitor Center represent women. Nationally, only five percent of our historic landmarks are dedicated to recognizing the achievements of women in American history. This- despite the fact that women constitute more than half of the American population.
Central to achieving gender equality in America is an increased public awareness of the contribution of women to our national story. In addition to working to make women’s studies an important, permanent part of our public school curriculum, we should continue to study the role of women as an engine of the economy and workforce.
Last week, USA Today released the results of a study on the economic status of women in America. The report ascribed hard data to a phenomenon which many of us have come to expect: women constitute half of the American workforce.
This is an important new trend in the U.S. economy and a stunning transformation from a generation ago. In 1970, women made up 43.8 percent of workers, while in July 2009 (the latest data available), women held 49.9 percent of all jobs.
In light of this new data and the passage of the Women’s History Museum bill by the House, I have high hopes that the Senate, led by the seven female Senators who serve there, will take up and pass this legislation quickly. After more than 200 years, it is time that this country acknowledge the role of women in history by building a museum to educate future generations about the struggle and promise of the female experience in America.