Rachel Vogelstein serves on the board of the National Women’s History Museum, a virtual museum that in part provides curricula for teachers and students and resources that share the stories of the women who contributed to our country’s founding and advancement in support of our democracy and human rights. Rachel has a rich history of professional services for women, including currently being a professor of gender and U.S. foreign policy at Georgetown Law School, and as a Douglas Dillon senior fellow and director of the Women and Foreign Policy program at the Council on Foreign Relations. However, she said that her awareness of women missing in our history books has become sharpest as a parent, whose children are missing vital information about half of our nation’s citizens.
It’s these missing women that compelled a group of women to fight long and hard to create the Museum. It began when they noticed that the only statue of women in the Capitol building, among hundreds of men, was the suffragist statue displayed in the basement, aka “the crypt.” They got it moved upstairs, figuratively elevating women’s contributions to center stage in the Capitol hall. That effort, 25 years ago, launched a campaign to build a museum to commemorate women and transform the way we teach history in our schools. While it hasn’t been physically realized yet, Rachel says that they are committed for it to be built on The National Mall in Washington, D.C., where the other national monuments and museums are located. She says that there are museums for practically every issue and idea, including postage stamps, textiles, all kinds of arts and craft, but nothing to commemorate the women who have served the nation.
Millions of People Visit the Online Museum
The Museum’s online presence has attracted millions of visitors with curricula available for teachers and resources for students. They have historians who have worked with the museum to curate online exhibits and information about a range of women, not only the suffragists, but women who helped shape the future of our nation at its founding, and others who fought for human rights and civil rights. These were really powerful leaders that provide role models of bravery and courage to create change. They are inspirational figures who can teach us ways to shape our own future.
How to Get Involved
Rachel encourages listeners to become a member of one of the committees fighting for the creation of this Museum. She says that there are hundreds of thousands of people across the country who have been affected by their virtual work, but we need to let our congressmen know that we consider building a physical presence a priority—whether that’s through letters, phone calls or social media. A physical structure will give the Museum the credibility to take a more important place in our nation’s capital. They have a capital campaign to raise funds for the building and it is a 501c3 organization, eligible for charitable tax deductions. In the meantime, the Museum will continue growing its online offerings to increase women’s presence in the story of our history. Rachel says that every time a young girl opens a history book and sees a women-less history, she learns that she is worth less and perhaps this country doesn’t belong to her.
Listen to this conversation for more information about Rachel and the Museum. Go online on August 26 to check out the full day of programming celebrating the signing of the 19th Amendment. As Rachel says, “When women see women accomplishing their dreams and daring to do the impossible, they begin to believe in their own potential.” The National Women’s History Museum aims “to complete our nation’s history, and empower future generations to build their dreams.”