As cultural institutions across the United States organize programming in celebration of the centennial of the ratification of the nineteenth amendment which granted women the right to vote, the House of Representatives voted in favor of establishing a museum dedicated to women’s history. The legislation, which was passed on Tuesday, comes more than three years after the opening of the Smithsonian Institution’s newest addition to the National Mall, the Museum of African American History and Culture.
“With full support from Congress, the Smithsonian has proven adept at creating museums that paint a more comprehensive picture of the American experience,” said Lonnie Bunch, secretary of the Smithsonian. “We remain committed to that goal, and we look forward to working with Congress and supporters nationwide to illuminate the profound impact women have had on the American story.”
Carolyn Maloney, the representative for New York’s twelfth congressional district and a sponsor of the bill, said, “Seeing role models doing things we all aspire to can change the course of someone’s life. Women and men of all ages deserve to see and be inspired by the remarkable women who helped shape this nation.” The other lead sponsors of the bill are Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Congresswoman Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).
While Maloney first introduced legislation proposing such a museum in 1998, it steadily gained cosponsors but failed to move forward. In 2014, Congress established the Women’s History Congressional Commission to access whether America needed a museum devoted to the contributions of women and answer other significant questions, such as what would be in the institution’s collection and how would it be financed?
A companion bill is also awaiting approval by the Senate. If it passes, the next steps will be to determine sources of funding, which will likely be a 50/50 split of federal and public funds, and possible locations for the institution—the bill recommends two sites on the Mall: The southeast corner, near the Washington Monument, and the area northwest of the Capitol Building and east of the National Gallery of Art’s East Building. The Smithsonian currently manages twenty-one sites in the Washington, DC’s metro area.