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Public Statements

National Women's History Museum Act Of 2009

Floor Speech

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

BREAK IN TRANSCRIPT

Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days within which to revise and extend their remarks and to include extraneous materials on H.R. 1700.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentlewoman from Hawaii?

There was no objection.

Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself such time as I may consume.

* [Begin Insert]

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to support H.R. 1700, as amended, as bill which directs the Administrator of General Services to sell at fair market value property in Southwest Washington, DC to the National Women's History Museum, Inc., a District of Columbia non-profit corporation for the purpose of establishing a museum dedicated to women's history.

This bill was introduced by Mrs. MALONEY and co-sponsored by many members including Subcommittee Chair NORTON, Ranking Member Mr. DIAZ-BALART and myself.

The National Women's History Museum was founded in 1996, and has been seeking a permanent physical location in the Nation's capital since its inception. According to museum officials, the museum intends to build a ``green'' building that will cost between $250 and $350 million. The costs will include designs, plans, construction, and two years of operation. The permanent museum is expected to be a focal point that will have permanent and temporary exhibits, special events, and education materials that highlight women's social, political, and intellectual contributions to history. According to the museum, this facility will house the first permanent and comprehensive record of women's history.

The National Women's History Museum will have five years to raise funds to construct the museum. If, after five years, the fundraising has not been successful, the property will revert back to the Federal government, thus the government's interests are protected.

In general the museum will bear the costs of the sale, including the appraisal.

This bill has bipartisan support and I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H.R. 1700 as amended.

* [End Insert]

I yield such time as she may consume to the author of this legislation, Mrs. Maloney.

Mrs. MALONEY. Thank you so much for yielding.

This is a very important day for women's history. Today, we are recognizing the immense contributions women have made to our Nation by voting to help create the National Women's History Museum.

I am grateful to Chairman Oberstar for his support in moving this bill through committee. And of course I thank my partner in this, Chairwoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, whose dedication and commitment in creating a museum about women has been persistent and strong. And I thank her staff, Susan Brita, and mine, Orly Isaacson, for their hard work.

We have been working on this effort for well over 10 years to provide women, comprising 53 percent of our population, recognition of their many contributions that are the very fabric of our country. I strongly urge my colleagues to vote in favor of this bipartisan bill and bring the Women's History Museum to the National Mall.

There are 211 statues in the Capitol Building, each honoring a leader from our Nation's history, but only 11 of these statutes are of female leaders. Of America's 2,004 historic landmarks, fewer than five chronicle the achievements of women. Even more troubling, a recent study revealed that only one of every 10 people identified in the 18 most commonly used U.S. history textbooks is female.

The museums and memorials in Washington are one measure of what our society values. We already have museums for stamps and for spies, but not one dedicated to women. This bill would honor our Nation's foremothers and inspire future generations of women leaders by providing a space on the National Mall to honor women's contributions to American history.

From Susan B. Anthony to Sojourner Truth to Oprah Winfrey, from Hattie Caraway, the first woman elected to the United States Senate, to Sonia Sotomayor, our Nation's first Latina woman appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the story of what women have contributed to the American way of life is a very long, overdue story.

The bill directs the General Services Administration to sell property located across from the National Mall at 12th and Independence to the museum at a fair market price. Reasonable time frames are included for the transfer of the property and the beginning of construction. The museum will be built and maintained with private funds.

I urge my colleagues to support the National Women's History Museum, and in so doing, honor our mothers, sisters, wives, and daughters.

I am really thrilled that it is here before us on the floor today. For too long, women's history has been missing from textbooks, memorials, museums, exhibits, and many other venues. With this bill designating a permanent building site, this museum will bring to life and tell all the stories of American history, male and female alike.

I would also like to recognize and thank the National Women's History Museum, and especially Joan Wages, their president. The museum played a leading role in moving the suffragist's statue out of the basement into the living room of the Capitol, Statuary Hall. They have been working with me and Eleanor Holmes Norton on this project well over 10 years. I look forward to continuing our work together as we see the museum built right across from our National Mall, and that we have, for the first time, a national museum dedicated to the many contributions of women.

Mr. MARIO DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield myself as much time as I may consume.

Mr. Speaker, this is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit educational institution dedicated to preserving, interpreting, and celebrating the diverse and important historic contributions of women and integrating this rich heritage fully into our Nation's history in a place where everyone will be able to see, everyone will be able to visit right here in the heart of the Nation's Capital.

Again, H.R. 1700 is intended to help pave the way for a women's museum in the Nation's Capital dedicated to recognizing the significant contributions of women throughout our wonderful and rich history. And despite the significant contributions of women throughout the history of our country, frankly, women continue to be underrepresented in exhibits featured in our museums.

The stories and contributions of women are critical to understanding our history as a Nation. And this is one way, just one way, that we can ensure that this history is passed along to our sons and to our daughters.

I think it is very befitting that this legislation would provide a prominent site for the National Women's History Museum near the National Mall, again, right here in our Nation's Capital.

I am pleased to be a cosponsor of this bill, along with approximately 50 other of my colleagues. I also want to recognize the work of not only Representative Maloney and Chairwoman Norton, who chairs our subcommittee with great distinction, but also Senator Susan Collins, who has worked tirelessly over the previous Congresses on legislation to secure a site for the National Women's History Museum.

I support the passage of this legislation, Mr. Speaker, and I urge my colleagues to do so same.

Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Speaker, I yield 2 minutes to the Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton of Washington, D.C.

Ms. NORTON. I thank you for yielding. And I thank the ranking member of the subcommittee for working with me to make sure that this bill came to the floor today. I especially thank my good friend, the original sponsor of this bill, the gentlewoman from New York, who has worked tirelessly to make sure this bill got done. And I want to take note of the women who for 10 years have never given up on this idea.

I had to overcome a presumption against transferring Federal property, so I encountered many difficulties in trying to get this bill through. But women never say no, and that is very important to achieving what is long overdue, this bill.

And note what the mission of the National Women's Museum is: to research, collect and showcase the contributions of women in professional fields as well as honor women's roles in nurturing their families and communicates. Women are absent from the Mall. Women are absent from prominent government sites. Part of it has to do with inequality of women in our society, that they haven't as often done what comes to light, but even when what comes to light comes, they are not recognized. That's why we need a women's museum. We note that this year there are women winning Nobel Prizes in science and economics, which shows you that you are going to have a lot to honor in this museum very quickly.

We went through regular order. The Women's museum has to buy the parcel at market value. They have 5 years to raise the money or it reverts back to the government. That is regular order; that's the way it always is when we transfer a property. But the women are geared up and ready to go, and I thank all concerned for making this bill possible today, especially my partner in this enterprise, the gentlelady from New York, and most of all the women themselves who refused to give up and now have what they deserve.

Mr. MARIO DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Ms. HIRONO. I yield 2 minutes to the gentleman from Virginia, the Honorable Jim Moran.

Mr. MORAN of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, in a perfect world, this legislation would not be necessary, but gosh sakes, only 5 percent of our national historic landmarks are in recognition of the accomplishments of more than half of our population. This is long overdue.

I want to particularly recognize the sponsor, Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney; Joan Wages, who was head of the National Women's History Museum idea for a number of years; Mazie Hirono; and of course, her very able assistant for our public buildings, Susan Brita. All of these folks, who happen to be women, have brought this about.

I want to underscore the fact that it simply authorizes the General Services Administration to convey a parcel of real property near the National Mall for the establishment of the National Women's History Museum. Fair market rates prevail, and the museum will be funded with private contributions. Since it is for women, about women and by women, they're going to achieve that contrary to some of the other things we've attempted. This is going to be a museum that all of the Nation's population is going to be very proud of. It's long overdue. Let's get it done.

Thanks to all who were involved in making it happen.

Mr. MARIO DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Ms. HIRONO. I yield 2 minutes to the gentlewoman from California, the Honorable Lynn Woolsey.

Ms. WOOLSEY. Thank you, Madam Hirono, and thank you to the gentlewoman from New York for all you do for women day in and day out.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in strong support of H.R. 1700, the National Women's History Museum Act of 2009. It is important because Congress and our Nation, as a whole, must find ways to honor the important roles of women, roles that women have played in shaping our very country.

Unfortunately, before the 1970s, the subject of women's history was largely missing from our schools, and it was absent completely in media coverage and in cultural celebrations. That's why, when I chaired the Sonoma County Commission on the status of women in 1978, the commission's education task force initiated a Women's History Week celebration, centered around international women's history day. That celebration, that very celebration, started a national movement.

In 1981, Congress responded to the growing popularity of Women's History Week, which was led by the women from my community in Sonoma County, by making it a national observance, and it eventually expanded the week to a month in 1987. During National Women's History Month, many cities and towns celebrate women's contributions through parades and other activities.

By building a National Women's History Museum, we will ensure that our Nation celebrates women not just during 1 month but throughout the year, every year, and it will ensure that young families, young girls and young boys come to Washington, D.C., to visit the women's museum and to remember what women have contributed and are contributing.

Again, I would like to thank my colleague from New York, Representative Maloney, for her leadership.

I urge my colleagues to support this important bill.

Mr. MARIO DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I reserve the balance of my time.

Ms. HIRONO. I yield 1 minute to the gentleman from Pennsylvania, the Honorable Chaka Fattah.

(Mr. FATTAH asked and was given permission to revise and extend his remarks.)

Mr. FATTAH. Let me thank the gentlewoman, and let me thank the sponsor of this bill, the gentlewoman from New York.

Mr. Speaker, I rise in one of my proudest moments in the House to support this legislation. As the father of three daughters, I am looking forward to the day I can bring them to the museum here in Washington to learn about the great achievements that continue until this day of women throughout the United States of America in all fields and endeavors.

So I congratulate the sponsor, and I hope for its favorable consideration.

Mr. MARIO DIAZ-BALART of Florida. Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.

Ms. HIRONO. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all of the speakers who supported this resolution. As a woman, of course, it has special meaning to me as well as to all of the other women in the House.

* [Begin Insert]

Mr. OBERSTAR. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of H.R. 1700, as amended, a bill to direct the Administrator of the General Services Administration to sell, at fair market value, real property in southwest Washington, DC, commonly known as the ``Cotton Annex'' site, to the National Women's History Museum, Inc., NWHM, a District of Columbia nonprofit corporation, for the purpose of establishing a museum dedicated to women's history. The site is bounded by 12th Street SW., Independence Ave., the James Forrestal Building, and C Street SW. The NWHM is a nonpartisan, educational institution with a mission of highlighting and celebrating the historic contributions of women in the United States. The bill was introduced by the gentlewoman from New York (Mrs. Maloney) and has bipartisan support.

H.R. 1700 requires that fair market value of the property be determined by highest and best use, as determined by an independent appraisal commissioned by the Administrator of the General Services Administration, GSA, and paid for by the museum.

The National Women's History Museum will have 5 years to raise funds to construct the museum. If, after 5 years, the fundraising effort has not been successful, the property will revert back to the Federal Government. The Federal Government is further protected by limiting use of the parcel as a site for the National Women's History Museum for 99 years.

It is with great pleasure and satisfaction that I support H.R. 1700, as amended. The committee has worked with staff from the Women's Museum for almost 10 years to find a suitable site, determine an appropriate disposal method, and identify terms and conditions that were acceptable to GSA.

I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting H.R. 1700.

* [End Insert]

Ms. HIRONO. I yield back the remainder of my time.

The SPEAKER pro tempore. The question is on the motion offered by the gentlewoman from Hawaii (Ms. Hirono) that the House suspend the rules and pass the bill, H.R. 1700, as amended.

The question was taken; and (two-thirds being in the affirmative) the rules were suspended and the bill, as amended, was passed.

A motion to reconsider was laid on the table.

END


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