By: Carey C. Shuart, NWHM Board Chair
My participation in the Centennial Celebration of the 1913 Suffrage Parade yesterday would have pleased and amazed my grandmother, Blanche Epsy Chenoweth. Blanche was an educator and activist in Chicago in the 1920s and 30s. She might also be amazed that women are still fighting to secure a permanent Museum to house their collective and individual stories, 50 years after her death in 1960.
Although yesterday’s parade was educational, festive and colorful, much like the original parade in 1913, the fact that there is currently no museum in our nation’s capitol to tell those brave suffragist’s stories, underscores the great need for a National Women’s History Museum. Out of the 17,000 museums that exist in the US, women still lack a central space in which narratives that highlight their challenges, successes, ingenuity and unique experiences in building this nation, are heralded to the world. Our foremother’s stories, artifacts, archives and remembrances are begging for a permanent home in Washington, DC.
My own love for women’s history began over twenty years ago, when in 1990, I had to figure out what to do with a box of radio scripts and documents that my grandmother had left with a note that demanded, “DO NOT THROW AWAY.” The realization that there were others with archives encouraged me to found a Women’s Archive and Research Center at the University of Houston to gather and preserve these documents and photographs. The collection is now the Carey C. Shuart Women’s Archive and Research Collection in the UH Libraries Special Collection.
Several years ago, when I became involved with the NWHM effort to build a permanent home for women’s history in Washington D.C., I wanted my home state of Texas to have a presence in this important cause. After joining the Museum and eventually participating on the Advisory Board, I have met members from all over the US and am continually compelled by the enthusiastic growth of participants and interest.
I encourage you to join our organization and consider hosting an event in your city to help spread the word about this important cause. Women are 51% of the US population and we need your help in making sure their history, America’s history, is both celebrated and passed on to the next generations.