Honoring More Women from U.S. History

By Amanda Reed, Communications Intern

On Feb.13, NOW Membership Vice President Allendra Letsome spoke at a press event urging Congress to vote on the Harriet Tubman National Historical Parks Act (S. 247), sponsored by Sen. Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.). Representatives from the NAACP, the National Urban League and the National Council of Negro Women also spoke in favor of the bill. This legislation would establish two National Historical Parks in honor of Tubman, a leader of the Underground Railroad. One park would be located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, where Tubman spent the early part of her life before escaping slavery and working to free other slaves. The second park would be located in Auburn, N.Y., where Tubman spent her later years. If S. 247 is passed, these parks would commemorate the life of a courageous activist and educate visitors about her work.

Unfortunately, too few statues and memorials are built in honor of notable women and their accomplishments. A mere eight percent of outdoor public statues in the United States are of female figures. Of the 100 sculptures (two per state) in the Capitol’s Statuary Hall, only 10 are of women, seven of whom are white. A statue of Rosa Parks was unveiled on Feb. 27, introducing the first full-body statue of an African American woman. Two other statues, depicting Sacagawea and Sarah Winnemucca, are of Native American women. Since 2000, states have been allowed to replace their sculptures, making it easier for more statues of women to be installed. So far, only four have been added.

The lack of representation of female figures reflects how U.S. society often overlooks the contributions of revolutionary women, especially women of color. These important leaders should not be a subcategory in our nation’s history, and the telling of their stories should continue beyond Women’s History Month. Plenty of women have made a positive impact on this nation and the world; they fought for many of the rights we enjoy today, and they initiated much of the advocacy we continue today. It’s time for us to better recognize their struggles and triumphs. The enactment of bills like S. 247 and the inclusion of more women in Statuary Hall would be helpful steps in rewriting women into history and honoring what they accomplished.

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