15th 2014
Aux Armes, Citoyennes! Sign the National Women’s History Museum petition.

Posted under: American history, women's history

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 Responses to “Aux Armes, Citoyennes! Sign the National Women’s History Museum petition.”

  1. Indyanna on 15 Apr 2014 at 10:39 am #

    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. Matt_L on 15 Apr 2014 at 11:59 am #

    done and done!

  3. joellecid on 15 Apr 2014 at 12:18 pm #


  4. Historiann on 15 Apr 2014 at 1:05 pm #

    Thanks, friends: keep the signatures coming. It’s not just a women’s history issue; it’s about professional integrity and respect for trained historians.

  5. Northern Barbarian on 15 Apr 2014 at 1:42 pm #

    Done! Why does Marianne (?) always have her dress falling off? It would seem impractical for battle.

  6. Historiann on 15 Apr 2014 at 1:53 pm #

    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!

  7. Ellie on 15 Apr 2014 at 2:12 pm #

    Not Marianne. Liberty, leading the people.

  8. Historiann on 15 Apr 2014 at 4:19 pm #

    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.

  9. Western Dave on 15 Apr 2014 at 6:18 pm #

    Done. Tweets to follow.

  10. Shaz on 15 Apr 2014 at 10:40 pm #

    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: http://www.nwhm.org/online-exhibits/jamestownwomen/index.htm 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.

  11. Susan on 15 Apr 2014 at 11:54 pm #

    323. Inching up…

  12. tony grafton on 16 Apr 2014 at 3:35 am #


    Citoyen TG

  13. John Rosinbum on 16 Apr 2014 at 7:40 am #


  14. Historiann on 16 Apr 2014 at 8:47 am #

    Thanks, everyone–keep them coming.

  15. Sharon on 16 Apr 2014 at 11:27 am #

    368. Done!

  16. Ellie on 16 Apr 2014 at 11:40 pm #

    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.

  17. Ellie on 16 Apr 2014 at 11:45 pm #

    There’s a whole set of “sister” allegories, that also include the Republic, France, and Reason.

  18. sophylou on 17 Apr 2014 at 12:22 pm #

    Signed, tweeted it, got response from NMWH which seems to be defensively tweeting people who tweet against the situation.

  19. Historiann on 17 Apr 2014 at 1:43 pm #

    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.

  20. sophylou on 17 Apr 2014 at 2:04 pm #

    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.”

  21. Historiann on 17 Apr 2014 at 2:10 pm #

    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.

  22. sophylou on 17 Apr 2014 at 2:13 pm #

    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!”

  23. Nursing Clio on 17 Apr 2014 at 4:58 pm #

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

    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.

  24. Historiann on 17 Apr 2014 at 5:12 pm #

    Oh, you don’t think that’s a good idea, Jackie?

    Like I said: Hilarious.

  25. Nursing Clio on 17 Apr 2014 at 5:18 pm #

    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.

  26. Historiann on 17 Apr 2014 at 5:42 pm #

    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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