Heard on the Hill

House vote likely on creation of women’s history museum

‘If every woman gave a $1, we’d have this built in no time,’ Carolyn Maloney says

Members of the American Equal Rights Association pose for a photograph at their executive committee meeting. Advocates for a national women’s history museum see 2020 — the 100th anniversary of the the ratification of the 19th Amendment — as a rallying point for its creation. (Courtesy Library of Congress)

For 20 years, proponents in and out of Congress have sought the creation of a national museum devoted to women’s history, and a new bipartisan push will likely get the matter a vote in the House this fall.

Last month, a bill to establish such a museum crossed the 290 co-sponsorship threshold that allows for fast-track floor consideration under what is known as the consensus calendar. The measure could be scheduled for a vote by November.

“How can you empower women if you don’t recognize them?” said Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, a New York Democrat who is behind the effort. “It’s outrageous we don’t have one.”

In 2014, Maloney succeeded in enacting the American Museum of Women’s History Congressional Commission, which was tasked to come up with ideas for the potential creation of a museum. The panel recommended a museum be built on or near the National Mall in Washington. Maloney subsequently introduced a 2017 bill that would establish a museum. It got 257 co-sponsors but did not get a floor vote.

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A similar bipartisan measure in the Senate is being led by Maine Republican Susan Collins and California Democrat Dianne Feinstein. Maloney said she has spoken with both about moving the bill through the Senate.

The purpose of the museum would be to collect, study and create programs concerning women’s contributions to various fields throughout U.S. history and those that have influenced the direction of the country.

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Advocates see 2020 as a potential rallying point for the museum — it marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which guaranteed women the constitutional right to vote.

The bill would specify that the Smithsonian’s Board of Regents would be required to pay 50 percent of the costs of constructing the building from federal funds and the rest from nonfederal sources.

“If every woman gave a $1, we’d have this built in no time,” Maloney said.

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