Who Should Tell the History of American Women?
Genevieve Wood /
Margaret Sanger, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug…coming soon to a Smithsonian near you?
The House of Representatives is slated to consider a resolution next week that would move toward building a National Women’s History Museum on the National Mall. One only need look at what’s taught in many of the Women’s Studies departments on college campuses to understand why the idea of a National Women’s History Museum run by feminist scholars and historians is of concern to those who actually care about history and women.
No doubt many of the exhibits, such as those featuring women in sports and women in business, may be non-controversial. The main issue is how topics such as abortion, the so-called wage gap, and other “women’s issues” will be treated. A review of the online version of the proposed museum is not encouraging.
There are multiple mentions of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger and gender equality champion Bella Abzug. But Phyllis Schlafly, whose efforts are widely credited with defeating the Equal Rights Amendment? One mention. Or Beverly LaHaye, whose organization Concerned Women for America, a counter to the National Organization for Women, has been one of the leading voices and organizations representing American women since the 1980s? No mention.
And there are other notable missing conservative female leaders such as fierce anti-communist Jeane Kirkpatrick, appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the first female ambassador to the United Nations. Leftist feminists never liked her, despite her accomplishments on behalf of all Americans.
But it’s not just about how many women from this side or that side are listed. It’s also the history told—or not told—about them. If the current treatment of Sanger is any indicator, only one side of the story will be included.
Sanger’s bio on the site reads, “More than any other single person, she originated the mindset that allowed for rational control of human population.” Rational? She was a racist who supported sterilizing certain ethnic groups and classes. Her views and the millions of abortions performed by the organization she founded, Planned Parenthood, have done incomparable harm to minority Americans. But you won’t get that side of the story at the proposed women’s museum.
Even museum president Joan Wages must know the museum’s balance of views is off, as she spent the majority of her letter to the House Resources Committee just last month trying to prove otherwise. “There are Board Members representing the right and the left and more from both sides are being considered,” she wrote, adding that the museum would have biographies of Schlafly and Condoleezza Rice.
But a quick review of the roster of the museum’s board members, ambassadors, advisory council and honorary board makes it clear this museum will lean left, not right. I suppose Jenna Bush is supposed to balance out Gloria Steinem and Eleanor Clift. Sure, there is a mix of Republicans and Democrats but, with the exception of Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), there is hardly a conservative or pro-life advocate on the list. I guess Blackburn is going to balance out Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and the rest of the liberal women’s sisterhood you’ll find listed.
Winston Churchill famously said, “History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.” And that’s the concern of those who believe the history in this museum will be told by only one side.
The history of women in America should not exalt the likes of Margaret Sanger.