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Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Women's History Museum Act

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Ms. NORTON. Madam Speaker, I thank my friend, the gentlewoman from New York. Her persistence has been indomitable; and without that persistence, we certainly would not be on the floor today.

But I also want to thank the Majority leadership who have permitted this bill to come forward on suspension, and I particularly thank the gentlewoman from Wyoming for her leadership.

The remarks of the gentlewoman from Minnesota were unfortunate. You would think you were voting on a museum. My colleagues, this is not a bill for a museum. This is a bill for a commission to study whether there should be a museum and under what circumstances. It is unfortunate, indeed, to criticize a bill for a study, the outcome of which we have no idea, except for the following:

The appointees to this commission will come from the leadership of this House and the minority in this House and from the leadership in the Senate and the minority in the Senate. It seems to me it would be very difficult for this bill to be converted into not a study of whether the history of women in the United States should be commemorated but a study of current women's issues that are highly controversial. To have a museum featuring controversial issues of the day flies in the face of what women's history has been about. That is for this House. That is not for a museum.

There is no neglect of the issues that the gentlewoman was concerned about--pro-life issues, traditional family--where we find Democrats and Republicans on both sides of those issues. You get lots of discussion on that. But, Madam Speaker, there is almost no discussion about the history of women in our country.

There are lots of things we could disagree about, but I think that almost no one will disagree that the time has come to at least study whether there should be an institution, a museum, not about women in America--and I stress, this is not a women's museum. It is about the history of women in America. The gentlewoman from New York has spoken about how distinguished that history has been. But it should come as no surprise that women were not writing the history books, and so women, like many others in our country, have not exactly been included. Yet we are half of the population.

Wherever you stand on women's issues, I am sure there is consensus in this House that half of the population should not go unmentioned in the textbooks of our country, should not be unseen in the memorials and in the museums of our country, and certainly should be in the Nation's Capital. If there is to be a museum--and we don't know what the commission will find--I would surely hope it would be in the Nation's Capital, where, for the first time, women's history, historical figures who are women, would be acknowledged and perhaps commemorated.

I do want to say one thing about what these commissions do. If we who desire a women's museum made any mistake, it was being so enthusiastic that we went straightforward to try to set up a museum, saw no reason why there wouldn't be unanimous consent, virtually, to have a museum about women's history in our country. That was a mistake. We should have gone the same route that many before us have gone: set up a commission to see whether you ought to have a museum at all; do it in an entirely bipartisan way so as to make sure that if you authorize a museum, it can't possibly be controversial.

And that is what we have here, a fail-safe method of assuring that if you vote for this commission, you are voting for a study, and nothing more than a study. If you don't like this study, you will surely have another chance to say ``no.'' Women, Democratic and Republican, deserve a bipartisan commission to give our country, if they can agree, a nonpartisan museum in the Nation's Capital.

And I thank the gentlelady from New York particularly for her hard work. This is hard work that began when the President's Commission on the Celebration of Women called for a women's museum in Washington. I remind the House that the House has voted for this museum. The Senate has voted for the museum. All that has been lacking is Senate and House votes for the museum at the same time.

Today we are not voting for a museum. We ask you to vote only for a commission to study whether there should be a museum. We got so far last time as to actually find land for this museum. All of that is pulled back to put before the House today: Do you believe that the history of women in the United States of America is important enough to appoint a commission to study that history?

I thank the gentlelady.


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