Monday, September 27, 2010

Quilts, Cowgirls & Lilacs

Attempts to get a National Women’s History Museum bill passed in the Senate are stalled because two Republican Senators have put a hold on the bill, which would allow plans to go forward to build the museum, at no cost to taxpayers. In the NY Times on Saturday (9/24/10), Gail Collins describes the bizarre situation in which two conservative Senators have (for now) put a stop to the bill, which is sponsored by a Republican, because.. well, that's where things get kind of strange.

Senator Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, says that he objects to the museum because “.. it duplicates more than 100 existing entities that have a similar mission.” There are more than 100 museums devoted to women's history? Yes, indeed, and these apparently include:

.. 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.

Wake up and smell the lilacs, Senator Coburn. By that reasoning, perhaps it makes sense to dismantle the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History because there is a Pro Football Hall of Fame in Ohio and it is possible to take a tour of Nathaniel Hawthorne's birthplace. Oh yes, and you can also go to the Nixon Presidential Library and Museum, see the very bed in which Nixon was born, and then buy commemorative golf balls in the gift shop. What else do we need to know about men and their role in American history? That sounds like more than enough to me, speaking as a concerned taxpaying female.

What are these senators really worried about? That supporting a women's history museum will be seen as supporting a liberal cause because "women's history museum" might be secret code for "feminism"? It's hard to say, but it's too bad these guys feel the need to protect their hard-core conservative reputations by being against a history museum. And it's too bad if they really think that quilts, cowgirls, and lilacs are sufficient to tell what Gail Collins calls "the whole, big amazing story."

I don't feel rabidly enraged about a lack of a national women's history museum, but I also can't see any sane reason why anyone would object to one. If such a museum existed, I would definitely visit it, especially if they had Susan B. Anthony golf balls and Ida B. Wells snow globes in the gift shop.


Notorious Ph.D. said...

As a sometime women's historian, my mind is officially boggled.

If they were casting a net broad enough to include lilac gardens and could still only come up with 100 establishments nationwide, then that, to me, is a pretty convincing argument for the proposed museum.

Kea said...

I think they're probably too clueless to be consciously afraid of a Real History museum about women, although their subconscious selves may be throwing a tantrum. Given who they probably are, and who they probably represent, they really are just doing their job. A Real History museum about women is about one of the most genuinely threatening projects I can think of ...

Anonymous said...

Who cares what women did in the past? What can we do in the future! GIRL POWER!

Anonymous said...

"especially if they had Susan B. Anthony golf balls and Ida B. Wells snow globes in the gift shop"

Ha! Thanks for the Monday giggle.

Anonymous said...

I just wish that we didn't need a "women's" history museum...couldn't plain old history include the history of non-white non-male non-rich people?

Anonymous said...

Makes you wonder what women who consider themselves equally as conservative as these men think about the whole situation!

Anonymous said...

The statement is, of course patently ridiculous. But supposing there were 100 authentic women's history museums in the US, does that mean we shouldn't have another?

There's a pretty cool science museum in my town. Before I moved here, I lived less than 10 miles from another cool science museum. And if I got in my car and drove less than an hour, I could get to 4 or 5 other cool science museums!! (This doesn't count the aquariums, which could also conceivably be called science museums of a sort.) I could make the same statement about art museums.

Does the senator think we should have only one of each kind of museum in the US? Only one art museum? Only one science museum? Only one history museum? If so, he would deny access to these institutions to most of the population who lived (1) too far away and (2) couldn't afford to travel long distances.

Needless to say, I think he's full of BS.