The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Cantor plans vote on bipartisan bill for national women’s museum

A statue of suffragettes Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in the U.S. Capitol. (Courtesy of National Women’s History Museum.)
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Plans for creating a women’s-history museum near the National Mall are gaining traction in the House, where Majority Leader Eric Cantor (Va.) plans a floor vote later this year on a Democrat-sponsored bill to study the matter.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), would create a commission to recommend plans for the museum and report on questions about project costs, potential sites, a governing structure and whether the facility should be part of the Smithsonian Institution.

Cantor and Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) support the proposal in the House, and Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) have championed the plan on the Senate side, giving the measure bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.

During testimony before a House Natural Resources subcommittee on Tuesday, Maloney noted the absence of a women’s museum in the nation’s capital, where museums exist to recognize everything from the Founding Fathers and space flight to postage stamps and news organizations.

“As you walk around, women and their achievements have been largely neglected,” Maloney said. “Not only is there not a women’s museum, in these other museums there’s not a section that is focused on their achievements.”

A group known as the National Women’s History Museum has lobbied for a women’s museum in Washington since the late 1990s. The organization estimated last year that developing the facility would cost about $400 million, in addition to $1 million to support the commission that Maloney’s bill would establish.

The National Women’s History Museum experienced turmoil after a 2012 Huffington Post investigation uncovered possible conflicts of interest and mismanagement within the nonprofit, which awarded contracts to a direct-mailing business run by its then-vice president, Ann E.W. Stone. The organization has since canceled the contracts, and Stone, who is now secretary of the organization, does the direct-mailing work for the effort free of charge.

Joan Bradley Wages, president and CEO of the National Women’s History Museum, told The Post in a December interview that “things are better than back on track” with the organization’s efforts.

The group has said it would hire a female architect for the museum project. That person would become the first woman to design a museum near the National Mall, the organization said.

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