Aux Armes, Citoyennes! Sign the National Women’s History Museum petition.

libertyleadingdelacroixFormez vos bataillons!  Via a fired-before-she-could-quit board member, I was alerted to the petition to reform S. 398 in the service of creating the National Women’s History Museum.  (If you missed my post on the NWHM Women’s History Month massacree last week, click here.)  It is addressed to the women of the U.S. Senate and asks them to rewrite S. 398 to require that actual women’s historians and actual museum experts be appointed to the board.  To wit:

[W]e are concerned that the bill, as currently written, does not mandate a place for women’s historians on the Commission. This is a serious oversight. Thus we call upon you to consider submitting an amendment or amendments to improve your bill.

We are aware that amending a bill that you have already supported is an unusual step for members of the Senate to take, but we believe that it is warranted because the project as currently constituted is at risk of failure. The non-profit National Women’s History Museum (NWHM) has, over the past 16 years, done a great deal to publicize the need for a museum of women’s history; indeed, without their persistence, there would be no bills in Congress today. Nevertheless, we fear that, under its continued leadership, the project will not come to fruition because NWHM’s conceptualization and mode of presentation of U.S. women’s history is unprofessional, inaccurate, and incomplete. Since the time when many of you agreed to co-sponsor the bill, the NWHM has dissolved its Scholars Advisory Council, thus barring a distinguished group of professional women’s historians from participating in the project at the outset and making sure that it reflects the highest standards of scholarship in the field.

We ask you to consider amending the bill in the interest of ensuring that any institution that emerges from this process be fully capable of presenting the history of American women with integrity and accuracy, as the women of the United States—indeed, the people of the United States—fully deserve.

cowgirlgun&holsterThe goal of the petition is to get 1,000 signatures.  I was #241.  Although I used the feminine form of citoyenne, I know that the petition’s supporters would certainly appreciate the assistance of as many citoyens as we can get, so giddyup.

26 thoughts on “Aux Armes, Citoyennes! Sign the National Women’s History Museum petition.

  1. I just signed. Seem to be #249. I don’t know why it would be so unusual to propose a bill and then join in amending it, but I never ran with the Roberts crowd. An evolving bill is a better bill.


  2. Yes, it’s Marianne.

    Funny you should ask about her dress and breasts. That’s actually what I’m thinking about writing about in book #3, which I hope to begin research on next year!


  3. Isn’t that Marianne, or a descendent thereof? I thought Liberty Leading the People was just Delacroix’s title for the painting, not a (merely) a description of the feminine protagonist.


  4. Just as an example of how awful the material produced by the museum is: look at this virtual exhibit, on a topic we know a bit about: It is beyond appalling. More than half the books cited are from the 1970s and earlier, including back to 1949 — you know, the height of women’s history!

    Not to mention, the virtual exhibit is incredibly racist. “First Women” are English, despite acknowledging some Indians lived there (but somehow not first??), and I can’t find a mention of an African person.

    Of course, they don’t seem to care about women in general — if you go to the Indentured Servant section, both documents are about men!

    Calling it a bad middle school project is a compliment.


  5. Liberty and Marianne are closely related, but not the same lady. In this case, she’s definitely not Marianne because the painting is about the Revolution of 1830, which was not a republican revolution. Liberty was the patron goddess of 1830.


  6. Oh, yes, and they’re also writing long letters in their own blood rebutting the letters sent by the Berks and the AHA and also Sonya Michel’s article. I guess the women’s historians are getting under their skin with their critiques of the organization.

    The whole thing feels like we’re all being lobbied. But like I said last week: hire a lobbyist to do a historian’s job. . . and you get lots of lobbying, not very much good history or critical thinking.


  7. Yep, and they seem to be drawing an interesting distinction between justifying the existence of the museum, period, and recommending “potential exhibits, programs, or a mission.” I don’t quite understand how planning for a women’s history museum can be separated from recommendations for its mission, but hey, I’m just an academic.

    Also, I’m sure the Berks folks are enjoying being informed that “Women’s history has been ignored and marginalized in U.S. history texts and culture. It is through knowing our history that we better understand ourselves and our society.”


  8. inorite? Hilarious. They’ve been tweeting me all of their responses, and I considered writing back, but (as the old saying goes) I refuse to engage in a battle of wits with unarmed people.


  9. At least they’re being very polite about it!

    I so want someone from the Berks to write back and say “OMG we didn’t know women’s history had ever been marginalized! Thanks so much for letting us know! What an awesome theme for our 2016 conference!”


  10. Have you seen the reply from NWHM to the statement issued by AHA and the Berks? Here are the links:

    Click to access Letter_AHA.pdf

    Click to access Statement_Berks.pdf

    Not only do they sound unreasonably defensive in tone, but in their response to the Berks, they write, “We are satisfied that Congress will select individuals with the appropriate knowledge, skills and backgrounds to make informed recommendations . . .”

    They want to leave it up to Congress! The same folks who had a whole panel of white dudes to talk about birth control.


  11. Ah, now I see all the pithy comments about NWHM’s letters. Well, it would be hilarious if it wasn’t so damn tragic and infuriating. Just like the Smithsonian Enola Gay incident, I fear this whole effort is going to end in a sad cautionary tale of how not to do public history.


  12. Jackie, I’m afraid there’s an excellent chance that you’re right. (And I do appreciate the links.)

    We’re not building a Gothic cathedral here, so why 18 years just to raise money to pay Joan Wages’s salary? If I had a seat on the board, that would be my #1 question. The NWHM has been a great deal for Joan Wages, but I don’t see that it’s been such a great gig for anyone else, let alone women’s history in the U.S.


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