Haunting and evocative, there stands a small bronze statue of a young African woman and a young European woman near the back of the Museum Kurá Hulanda, a museum on the island of Curacao that chronicles, among other things, the African slave trade.
The weary African woman is comforting her distraught European counterpart, who's also been inducted into indentured servitude. I remember being surprised and confused at this fragment of a fascinating story that I would have never known had I not been sent to Curacao on assignment for the now-defunct Modern Bride.
I bring this up because Meryl Streep reminded me. Because she relates finding herself absorbed and entranced by the myriad stories of unknown women at the virtual site of the National Women's History Museum.
Yes, that would be virtual because her speech on September 21, 2010 -- funny, poignant, impassioned and important -- points out the ridiculous fact that we still don't have an actual National Women's History Museum.
The bill that would make this possible has been submitted every year for seven years. We've just been waiting for permission, Streep emphasizes, to buy the land, at market value, for this privately funded (read: no tax dollars) museum. "We're not asking for a check -- we want to give them a check."
Gail Collins, in her New York Times op-ed, Unhold Us, Senators, explains why:
The answer -- and, people, how many times have you heard this story? -- is that two senators, Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, have put holds on the bill. A hold is one of those quaint Senate traditions that ensures that each individual member of the chamber will have the power to bring all activity to a screeching and permanent halt.
Streep points out that there are a string of unusual museums in DC that, while of interest, perhaps are not as much of a draw as a women's museum might be, especially because there is no women's history museum anywhere in the world. There's a postal museum, a spy museum, a bonsai museum... a building that is a museum to building... I've been amassing unknown and usual stories about women for years -- Goethe's muse and George III's daughters, the Mancini sisters, Nancy Burns in the American Museum in Bath, a weird egg collection in a tiny historical society in Western Maine. But trekking all over kingdom come, while fascinating, is not exactly convenient. It's also exhausting, expensive and highly singular.
Again, Collins notes:
Coburn's office said the senator... felt that the museum was unnecessary since "it duplicates more than 100 existing entities that have a similar mission." ... the Quilters Hall of Fame in Indiana, the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame in Texas and the Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens in Washington... really, Senator Coburn's list pretty much proved the point that this country really needs one great museum that can chart the whole, big amazing story.
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