Minutes of the second day of the November 12-13, 1998 Commission Meeting

Minutes of the first day of the November 12-13, 1998 meeting

Washington, DC

Opening Remarks

The following is a transcript of Beth Newburger's remarks.

We are going to begin today's program by hearing from Dave Barram. Dave was appointed Administrator of General Services in March 1996. Dave is especially important to us because GSA, the agency for which both of us work, is the sponsoring agency for this federal commission so we are particularly grateful that Dave made the decision to sponsor this commission when the President asked him to do so. Dave is fond of saying about GSA, "this is not your father's GSA, but it is not your daughter's yet either," because under his leadership GSA has embraced change with energy and enthusiasm and is fundamentally reshaping itself. A twenty-four year veteran of Silicon Valley, Dave has played a key role in shaping and implementing the federal government's technology initiatives while in senior positions at Apple computers, Silicon graphics, and Hewlet Packard.

Throughout his career Dave has been a strong advocate for American industry and all workers. In addition, he has been actively involved in education issues, encouraging the use of advanced technology in the class room and job based training. He chaired the California Commission of Public School Administration and Leadership and he continues to serve on the Board of the National Center for Education and the Economy which published the report America's Choice: High Skills or Low Wages. Dave is a champion for women's place in the work force. He has embraced the Clinton administration's goal to issue five percent of all GSA contracts to women-owned businesses. A goal which I am proud to tell you we met in fiscal 1998. It is my special pleasure to welcome Dave Barram to this podium.


Dave Barram
Thank you Beth. I am very pleased to be here because as Beth said we are supporting the work of the Commission. I am also happy that Beth is willing to give so much of herself to help lead the work of the Commission. She is talented and tireless just like some of the women in history that we want to celebrate. We are a very different organization at GSA, and Beth is right--I do like to say "this is not your father's GSA," and lately, as she said, lately I've been thinking that we've come a long way but we do still have a ways to go until we are "your daughter's GSA." We have changed, and we are changing. We are better because GSA women are making history. One half of our executives in the headquarters, three of the four political appointees, and five of the twelve career appointees are women. That was not true four years ago.

In my thirty-three year adult life working in high-tech and now in government I have seen a lot of changes in how women are involved in and impact the work place. I have heard all the myths, listened to a lot of dumb arguments, but one thing has been clear to me all along: success is based on getting results, men or women. Sometimes you get results because you saw how someone else did it, or heard about them, or read about how they did it. My parents raised five sons. My dad the Baptist Minister was the bread-winner and there was not a lot of bread. My mother was his partner and a great partner as a mother and as a pastor's wife. She was very successful at that and that was not an easy job. I knew from the very beginning that she could be successful at anything she wanted to do, as successful as she was at being a mother and a pastor's wife. So I live with a very simple notion: women and men can do almost any task, we are all very complex people, we carry baggage that we pick up in our culture, but results matter and that is ultimately how we need to judge performance.

Our history contains great examples of women who stood up for this notion. I was in Boston in September, back in Boston which is my home where I grew up anyway, to dedicate our sparkling, beautiful new courthouse. On the outside carved in stone were the words spoken in 1817 of Sarah Grimke, a conservative daughter of South Carolina. By then, living in Massachusetts she took on the General Association of Congregational Ministers who had decried women preachers and women reformers. In her reply to them she said "men and women are created equal. They are both moral and accountable beings and whatever is right for man to do is right for women."

When I tell my twenty-six-year-old daughter, or she tells me, about women who have changed the world, I know that she knows that she can too. This is an amazing time to be alive and to be in America. Technology is freeing us to think in new ways and good people are doing just that. I am so glad that I can call Hillary Rodham Clinton a friend and so pleased that you are all gathered here to make sure we celebrate women in American history. She and you are not just making history for our children, you have the good sense and the passion to make sure that it gets out there and is available. I thank you, my mother thanks you, and my daughter thanks you.


Ann Lewis
Dave, I don't want to go until we thank you. I want to say to our Commission members and to our friends in the audience we should all appreciate and understand that Dave and his leadership at GSA is making our work possible. By agreeing to serve as our federal agency you have really enabled the Commission to travel, to ask people's ideas, to collect the kind of suggestions and exciting ideas that we are getting and we are really grateful for that.

More than that, I thought about this morning. You own and maintain federal buildings all around the country in every county which probably means that Dave Barram hosts more events for women's history in March than any other single property owner because you are a wonderful resource and I got shivers when I heard you read the words of Sarah Grimke. How wonderful to know that boys and girls in Boston will hear that moral force and that voiced leader. She is one of the women we ought to know about. I was going to share with all of that it is your sensitivity and your work at GSA that you are saving the Clara Barton house. That's a project, since it is happening around us and we are reading about it as it happens. We can all take great pride in your decision not to allow that building to be raised once you knew it served as Clara Barton's office. That is going to give a whole new generation a wonderful view of our history, so thank you, truly.


Ann Lewis then introduced Linda Witt, Research Fellow, Women In Military Service For America.


Linda Witt
I am actually pleased I am speaking first, I am actually pleased that we had a crisis yesterday and I couldn't hear all of the wonderful ideas because I am under orders to give you a proposal that is do-able. I work for a General now so when I say I am under orders I am serious. My project is so modest that I am glad that I didn't listen to the grand ones yesterday. My project stems from a lot of parts of my life. My best friend in grade school moved away in the seventh grade and you know how intense friendships and feelings can be at that time. I was devastated, she reappeared in my life just a few years ago and to my surprise returned a book I had loaned her forty years ago for the trip to her new home and I had forgotten it totally.

When I re-read it I was stunned. It was a popular novel from the teens of this century: Gene Stratton Porter's A Daughter of the Land. It was written at a time when women were very aware of the injustices against them and it was a very angry book. In re-reading the book I realized that I hadn't just been born a Feminist, that it wasn't just in the air of Western Colorado where I grew up, it was in the books and it was in the feelings of the women around me. A few years ago I wrote with historian Glenna Matthews and political scientist Karen Paget the book Running As a Woman: Gender and Power in American Politics and by the way interviewed Ann at that time.

Two things in particular jumped out at me. One was that until American women are able to prove their equality on the battlefield and in body bags, men will always claim a larger piece for whatever pie is on the table and a greater bit of whatever pie may have been there yesterday. The second discovery was very interesting: virtually all of the political women I interviewed in 1992, most of the ones in the House and Senate, a number of them running for state office, governors, treasurers, including some sitting governors Ann Richards of Texas, Madeline Kunin of Vermont, mentioned the same childhood heroine. Almost all of them had read the biography of Amelia Earhart, why only Amelia Earhart? She apparently was the only real woman, real time heroine given credit in the 1940's. She was there, you knew that women could do something because she had done it.

The first discovery, the connection between bearing arms and citizenship rights, has led me to the Women's Memorial and my current project with Brigadier General Wilma Vaught. It is a history on American women's heroism and we want to tell that story from the mid-1600's on and raise some questions about the limits that continue today on women citizens.

Both of these discoveries led me here today. I want to help find a young heroine in every women's life, or more precisely, I want to help impressionable young girls as I once was find the heroines in their own home towns. Women's accomplishments will help them both value themselves and their own abilities. I'd like to help older women, those who may have bought society's line that they are not very important to discover how their lives contributed to the greater good and that those contributions now are being recognized. It goes back to that pie I discussed earlier: until women's lives and contributions are valued, men will always claim the larger share.

Over and over again in the notes General Vaught received after the Women's Memorial was dedicated last year were thanks for opening the eyes of the nation. Many of the speakers said similar things, that the memorial makes visible women's history or a part of women's history-- American history that had been lost. Those simple phrases said so much. I know at this group's Chicago meeting General Vaught shared with you her frustration about the invisibility of the American service woman. She mentioned Steven Ambrose's Citizen Soldier. It has just four pages on women and mostly it is about nurses and they are just praising the men, despite the fact that 400,000 American women went all over the world doing jobs that women had never done before in World War II and yes dying for their country. How could so popular and generous a historian as Ambros overlook 400,000 American citizen soldiers? We don't see what we are not taught to look for.

I also know that General Vaught shared with you how difficult and costly it is to build buildings and computer data banks. I am sure that there is sentiment in this room for more money for women's museums, libraries, oral history projects, networking existing databases, and computerizing oral history collections. It should all be done. I want to suggest something far simpler and immediate and something so simple that it could perhaps be pulled off in the year 2000. I began to imagine it this summer when I took a long solitary driving trip in the West and several times crossed the old Oregon trail. It was the wild, desolate places in Wyoming and Idaho and each time I saw a marker I got out of the car and looked at the wagon ruts and read whatever the marker had to say about pioneers and wondered why it didn't talk about women, just about generic pioneers.

Why didn't it specifically talk about the women who gave birth or buried babies along the trail,the women who clung to the few mementos of what had been home in far gentler places and braved the journey alone? Why didn't it talk about their hopes for what could be their future, their families' future, and their Nation's future? Why didn't it talk about the other women, the red women, the brown women, whose lives also were being irrevocably changed? It should have and we can still erect those historical monuments that will. In fact that is what I am suggesting we do in a National project. Why not create a National contest that challenges young people to go out and discover the women whose names belong on those historical markers in their own communities? Set up a contest and an award system that makes sure that small town America as well as big city, inner-city neighborhoods can see themselves in the process and embrace it.

Award real honors at the county and state levels, bring the best projects to Washington and have the President and the First Lady congratulate the winners. Most of all make sure those humble projects get built. In fact design a millennium marker that shows that in the year 2000 America really started honoring its past by recognizing its women. It should be a project teachers can get behind, teach around, and assign. Teachers should assign projects to find the heroines in small towns and big cities. If the woman in question is still alive, have the kids get her stories on tape and when they are doing the interview make sure the teacher has alerted the local newspaper and television stations. By the way that is one of the ways Wilma Vaught got her memorial built was by enlisting people at the local level and getting them to talk to the local newspapers and those newspapers then began discovering women veterans' stories.

What did you do in the War Grandma? Is an exceptional oral history project done by South Kingston, Rhode Island high school students and it would be a fine model for a project like this. Another similar Medford, New Jersey project does virtually the same thing but on video tape. The idea doesn't have to be limited to World War II, or high school age students--just women. Wherever women are organized they know their foremothers and heroines and the chances are that they are already concerned about the pressures on the lack of role models for and future status of girls today.

Possible organizations:

  • AAUW
  • DAR
  • Daughters of the Confederacy
  • African-American sororities
  • Department of Agriculture's County Home Extensive Clubs
  • Department of Labor's Women's Bureau
  • Specific ethnic heritage groups
  • Women's groups within unions
  • National Women's Political Caucus
  • National Women's Campaign Fund
  • National Women's Party
  • American Legion
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars (many women are now becoming the commanders of their posts by the way)
  • Specific women's veterans organizations such as the WAC association.

At the memorial General Vaught will be happy to give you names of women all over America for this project. I mentioned each of the above groups for a reason; I know the DAR, for example, has identified hundreds, maybe thousands of Patriot women during the Revolution. The Daughters of the Confederacy have done the same thing for women in the Civil War. I know that black women who fled slavery during the Civil War often thought about joining the army. Many of them helped to build the levees in Memphis and carry on other projects for the Union. Many were spies, couriers, Harriet Tubman was a scout, Sojourner Truth worked in Michigan to gather supplies for the soldiers. Black heritage groups have undoubtably found others.

Why did I mention the Department of Agriculture's Home Extension Groups? Canning food, which is becoming a lost art today to just about everyone except Martha Stewart, came about through the Agriculture Dept.'s Home Economist in response to World War II. My mom got her first pressure cooker then. In 1943 some seventy-five percent of all American homemakers canned food for their families, specifically because of the war. Their victory gardens that year produced 8 million tons of extra food more than farmers had been producing before.

The reason I mention the Agriculture Department is because I think that any National Women's History Project must reach out to ordinary American women. For one reason, to validate the things women were able to do at a time when society let them do so very little. Also, because of the ingenuity in learning or inventing new ways to live, feed families, and contribute to the Nation's efforts also helped to win the war--whatever the war, whatever the era.

Another reason I say don't overlook the ordinary woman: what she did may have not yet been made visible and it may wait for a future historian to fully comprehend why it was so valuable. A case in point is Martha Ballard, a Revolutionary era midwife. Although previous scholars had taken note of her diaries, no scholar until Laurel Thatcher Ulrich had seen the rich social and economic network that was the product of Ballard's time and community. Oreck's book A Midwife's Tale: The Life of Martha Ballard won a Pulitzer for History and may have opened the eyes to some male historians. Just a little side note: the book is important to us at the Memorial because no other scholar had realized that Clara Barton had been Martha Ballard's great niece and often visited her as a young girl.

We know that there are male dynasties in various fields because we take note of male role models. Was it mere coincidence that Clara Barton became the nurse she became, the one who virtually invented modern patient care, created the first real career field for women and founded the Red Cross? We may never know, but we do know that young girls are impressionable and need role models if they are to succeed and we know that older women are sorely in need of validation. It may sound corny but we could work to dot the road maps of America with the names and accomplishments of women. It would be simple, it would be do-able, it would involve both young and old, it would be grassroots and malleable, and it could be community-building. Starting the new millennium by making the point that every community in America honor at least one woman would be nice symbolism for the end of an old era. Thank you.


Ann Lewis thanked Linda Witt and introduced Congresswoman Louise Slaughter. Congresswoman Louise Slaughter is a member of the Rules Committee and was the principal sponsor for legislation to create the women's history trail.

Congresswoman Louise Slaughter
Thank you very much. Of course as you can tell I have a great obligation to make sure this history never gets lost. If you bear with me just a moment I will tell you about a few more wonderful women we have there. Kate Geason who became America's first female bank President in 1917, when she became President of the First National Bank in Rochester and in 1921 she established the first company housing as far as we know in the United States, Deeson which still exist today.

Another that I am really proud of, the Rochester JC's, Junior Chamber of Commerce was the first to admit women and for that they lost their charter. The Rev.Margaret B.J. Brown was the first clergywoman in the Nation to become an Executive Presbyter for the Presbyterian church. Blanche Stewart Scott of Rochester was the first licensed woman pilot in the United States and second in the world. Antoinette Brown Blackwell of Rochester was the first woman to become an ordained minister. If they were alive today, I would be the Congresswoman for both Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglas so the obligation rests heavily on me ladies and gentlemen.

First let me extend my thanks to distinguished members of this panel and to the Co-Chairs Ann Lewis and Beth Newburger who have been friends of mine and fighters in the field for many many years. It is gratifying to me to see women's history and accomplishments and contributions begin to receive some part of the attention that they are due. I want to commend the First Lady for her efforts to promote women and women's history and her attention has made an enormous difference. Especially in the events like the one we had this summer in Seneca Falls, New York and upstate New York celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first women's rights convention in Seneca Falls. The Commission has proposed to answer at least five questions about women's history and I would like to address each of them briefly if I may.

Our nation has spent over two hundred years minimizing or ignoring the accomplishments of American women. We cannot expect reversing the trend will be quick or easy and we must be prepared to engage in a long-term effort that will re-introduce the stories of women's lives into ever facet of our culture: our history books, our cultural identity, and our historical celebrations. One of the most obvious and needed efforts must be to preserve the physical relics of women's history. I was delighted to join with Senator Dodd, as Ann mentioned, in passing the Women's Progress Commemoration Act. The Commission will be set up, I hope it will be able to supplement and work well with this Commission in making sure that we go into the next century not forgotten.

Beyond preservation we must incorporate women's history into education directly. For many years now March has been designated as Women's History Month but most schools ignore it. Women's history has to become a vital part of every curriculum at every level of education. I would strongly encourage that groups dedicated to women's history form partnerships with the manufacturers of textbooks to help weave women's stories into the texts. Partnerships will benefit from the group's expertise while all of us will benefit from a child's increased awareness of women's role from its earliest age.

We need to celebrate both the extraordinary women and the extraordinary accomplishments of ordinary women. For example, who was it that kept the home fires burning and the businesses running and the farms intact while men were off in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars? Who was it that taught the children in our schools and who nursed the frail and the elderly throughout our Nation's development? Adding women's stories to history books and teacher's syllabi would be a long-term project but will require continuous pressure. Some will undoubtably deride this effort as politically correct, and if so, so be it. American history should correctly portray the crucial contributions of its women.

There are many groups who are working to promote women's history for young people and they need to be brought together so their efforts are coordinated and not duplicated. The organizations like the Girls Scouts, the National Education Association, the American Association of University Women, and the Association of Business and Professional Women have a tremendous reach and it could make a real difference with their combined resources and I urge them to consider formally coordinating their efforts on women's history and education.

What is the appropriate way to call attention to existing sites? There are already a number of interesting women's history sites across the country. As I mentioned in Rochester we have many of them, but unfortunately, most of the sites in the United States are still unknown, meaning that few people are taking advantage of the opportunities to learn about women's history even if it is in their own backyards. I am pleased to report that we were able to secure funding for the fiscal year 1999 on the misappropriations bill to study the establishments of a women' s rights national historic trail. This trail runs from Boston, Massachusetts to Buffalo, New York when it is finished but the original segment now runs from Rochester Susan B. Anthony's home to Auburn, New York, Harriet Tubman's home.

This trail will provide a coherent scheme linking together significant women's history sights, providing the historical context, and supplying tourists, students, and history buffs with the designated route and an interpretive guide. We are finding that this gets a lot of attention. These efforts are only a small beginning. We need to use all of the resources at our disposal including the media and new technology to link together repositories of information on women's history. The Internet is already providing vast resources on women's accomplishments but we must build on what are really initial steps.

History buff reenact the battles of the Civil War, follow the Underground Railroad, and assist archaeological digs at historic sites. We can offer individuals similar opportunities to trace and to relive women's history through our parks and through our historic sites. How should women's history be celebrated in local communities? Well we have a head start here. Localities should be the first, frankly, to celebrate women's accomplishments in their own history. Every community has a local heroine even if they have not yet discovered her yet. Rosie the Riveter kept the factories running during World War II, women earned the right to compete in the Olympic Games, individual women broke down career barriers in every profession and field. In Rochester, women organized the Female Charitable Society in 1822 and went door to door to make sure that families in which the bread-winner was ill or deceased were receiving food, clothing, and shelter.

These are the unsung heroines of our history, and like our schools, almost no communities take full use of this opportunity offered by Women's History Month. This year the National Park Service took a real leadership role by highlighting the accomplishments and contributions of women throughout the Park system. Individual parks designed exhibits spotlighting women connected to their site in coordination with the 150th anniversary of the Women's Rights Convention. We should not make this just a one-time effort, but we should extend it to other programs and agencies. The Smithsonian Institution has made leaps and bounds in incorporating women into exhibits and accounts and other museums should follow suit. Government has the opportunity to be the real leader on women's history as we have in areas like equal employment opportunities for women.

Should there be a National focus such as a building in our Nation's capital? I should tell you that this question make women in Western New York very sciddish--to be perfectly honest. They have been keeping the flame since 1848 and they are a bit nervous that the spotlight will shift away from them a little bit, but something must be done here in Washington. I think the first thing is that we need to address the disgrace here in the Nation's Capitol that there are almost no statues depicting women or anything that women have done.

It took us three years to get that awful statue up from the basement into the Rotunda and in the absence of anything better to replace it we certainly need to make it clear to the gentlemen that that is not going back in the closet, but a women's history museum could serve as a centerpiece for women's history efforts. Every year the tens of thousands of persons, many of them children, pass through the Capitol and visit all the monuments in this city and as I pointed out in the capitol they see very little of women. We have to take advantage of this opportunity to tell people who come to this city that this country was built by men and women.

How do we use technology? I think I already mentioned the Internet and what we have been doing and we can use that very well. I think this upcoming Millennium offers us a unique opportunity to correct the errors of the past and fill in the many gaps that are left in our history books. I am embarrassed to say gaps, because we simply are not in there. The coming of, as Susan B. Anthony noted talking about this century, and she surely would have been disappointed with us on this, "Men have been faithful in noting every heroic act of their half of the race and now it should be the duty as well as the pleasure of women to make for future generations a record of the heroic deeds of the other half." I am sure that she expected us to start doing this somewhere around 1850. Maybe the year 2000 won't be too bad, but I wish we could have started much sooner.

The 150th anniversary of the Women's Rights Convention held at Seneca Falls held this summer was a commendable start. I was proud to lead eight of my congressional colleagues and my former colleague and dear friend Pat Schroeder to participate in the landmark celebration and it was astonishing to them because they didn't know about it either. But we can't just allow that Seneca Falls trip to be a one-time event. The anniversary should mark the beginning of a long continuum of initiatives to give the women's contributions their rightful place in our Nation's history.

A good friend of mine from Rochester wrote a book a few years back. Her name is Susan Stewart, she was very intrigued with the notion that women throughout the years have sort of waxed and waned, risen and fallen. She brought up some facts that were really astonishing to me. During the Crusades when the man of the house would go off (sometimes for twenty years to fight somebody), it was the woman who stayed at home and managed the estate. Marriages were arranged in those days on the strength of who the mother was, yet credit was never given for the fact that they really made the economy run. The same thing happened with women going West, when we brought up the American West and then we forgot about them again. We don't know what that subtle thing that tells us now "we need to go home sisters," but it happens to us and we know it. One of my best examples, I always remember, it was an ad once from Revlon, a woman named Charlie--do you remember Charlie? She wore a silver suit, drove a fancy car and went everywhere by herself and people were really tickled to see her. Suddenly that was gone again and we didn't go quite back to "ring around the collar" but almost "yellow waxy build up" was the thing of my existence.

There is something there. It is not just economics, there is something else in this society that needs studying by historians as to why are we popular at one half of a century and beneath contempt at the other half? Before I close, I really, because I know Ann is going to be disappointed to hear this one more time, but I am so impressed with this Rochester Female Charitable Society and I have to share with you just a few things they did. This was unheard of, this now is 1822, Rochester is barely established, it is fairly new, and lots of people are moving in. Some women got together in a home because they wanted to aid the sick and the poor and establish a charity school for those too poor to pay the city school fees. There was a President, a Vice President, and a board of twelve Directresses they called themselves, and the Visiting Committee which oversaw fifteen districts in the village. (It was just a village then.)

The members paid twenty-five cents a year to belong to this society and they also contributed provisions, and clothing, and bedding which they collected from the community. The goods and money were distributed to the poor in each district by the visitors. By 1872, seventy-three districts had been established each with a woman visitor. The chief source of income for the early years was a collection taken up at a sermon preached by a different minister each year--they spread the obligation. They got money from the proceeds of a Jenny Lind concert in 1851 and a lecture given in 1855 by P.T. Barnum and there were gifts and bequests of cash and property. By 1875 the board was incorporated by an additional board of men trustees to oversee the investment funds. Don't you love this part? This is also the city where Kate Gleeson wanted to go away for college. She went away for one year and then her father sent for her to come back because they couldn't run the company without her. These women who had established this for thirty years decided they had to put men trustees on the board to take care of all of this money they had collected over the years.

Anyway they got a lot and built a school that was then superseded by the city of Rochester City School District. The Rochester City School District has no idea that it was founded by the Female Charitable Society. The major task that that created was the establishment of a Rochester city hospital which they built and also they had a group called the Rochester Orphan Asylum, the Worker house, the Home for the Friendless which was for women on the streets and they wanted to get them off the streets and that building is still there. Mostly they did those services and those services were superseded later, but had these women living in this little village at that time where there was a lot of sickness and where they were cut off pretty much from friends decided to band together and meet the needs of the community--these were the unsung heroes and heroines that every community has.

No community should talk about its history, its past, its founders day or anything like that without talking about the contributions of the women who made life possible and better and better opportunity for everyone. Women in so many ways are the heart and soul and the backbone and muscle of the economic state we find ourselves in now. So I really appreciate being here this morning and I want to thank you for your hard work. It is well high-time sisters, but we won't go into the next century unsung. Thank you very much.


Ann Lewis then introduced the members of the Commision. She then introduced Dorothy Ferrell, President of the National Women's Party, who before the National Women's Party was employed by Proctor and Gamble in its Government Relations office. In that assignment, Ms. Ferrell has shown her priorities to provide funding for the NWP's historic headquarters, the Sewall Belmont House and its extraordinary collection of suffrage artifacts.


Dorothy Ferrell
Thank you very much Ann. Good morning, as Ann said my name is Dorothy Ferrell and it is my honor not only to be here this morning, but also to be President of the historic National Women's Party located in the historic Sewall Belmont House. Also with me here today is Paula Felt and Courtney Holden who labor long and hard at the National Women's Party. Anyway I would like to thank you Ann and Beth for inviting me and all the other members of the Commission. It is always a pleasure to talk about history because everyday we live in a historic house and some days I think that we forget that we have the honor of being there and just concerned about all of the work that it takes to keep up an old house.

But the National Women's Party, as I hope that most of the people know, is a nonpartisan organization dedicated to equality for all women. It was founded in 1916 by the ardent suffragist Alice Stokes Paul, and what Alice Paul did to attract national attention for the women's vote is she began to stage parades and pickets and women were the first ever to picket the White House. She and her followers just kept this up and, by and by, the women began to be arrested. They were arrested and eventually were imprisoned and then went on hunger strikes. I am going to mention those words now but I will refer to them later because we want to do something to make these things live. All of these brave women who were arrested for their civil disobedience and forced to endure terrible living conditions at the Occoquan Workhouse and the DC Jail, were in the end victorious. Their sheer determination helped gain their American sisters the right to vote on August 26, 1920.

To ensure women's full inclusion into the United States Constitution, Alice Paul immediately then began to work on an Equal Rights Amendment which she wrote in 1923, and I am sure that you all know that this amendment has not been included in the United States Constitution. In addition to the historic house, the legacy of Alice Paul is that we must continue her work and complete it by getting the Equal Rights Amendment included in the Constitution. Now back to the house. Alice Paul lived in the Sewall- Belmont House for forty-three years. The house was purchased by Alva Vanderbilt Belmont for National Women's Party in 1929. The house, well most of you have been there, is located adjacent to the Senate Hart Building and across from the Supreme Court and a block and a half from the US Capitol. I suggest very humbly that perhaps we have the best location and I used to say in the Western world and now I've expanded this to say that we have the best location in the whole world.

This house was designated a National Historic Site by an Act of Congress in 1974. Since then, with much needed help from the National Park Service, the house has served as a museum dedicated to the women's suffrage and women's struggle for equality. We have thousands of visitors that come to our house every year and they discover it by accident so that means that we have to do a much better job getting the story out about the house. In 1998, we anticipate that there will be approximately 10,000 visitors who have walked through our doors. I say to everyone that anytime that someone comes to this house and they do not leave with a clear message of the Equal Rights Amendment then we have failed in our mission.

What we do is we start out the tour by showing a twenty-eight minute video entitled We Were Arrested Of Course. We invite all of you to come to the house and see this video as well as the other art and artifacts there. I have never seen a woman that has seen this video and has remained unmoved. I suggest to everyone that if every woman in America saw this the numbers of voting women would increase substantially at the polls. Then I say that if women voted in increased numbers the world as we know it would change because they would vote for things that are important to women and families and all Americans. We need to get our story out is the point of this--we need to do it and we must do it.

In addition to showing the video then you go upstairs and see the museum floors. The building holds an immense collection of art and artifacts. We have the original purple, gold, and white banners which I've brought today to, I won't cover up the sign for the President Commission because I wouldn't want to do that. These were the banners that the brave women carried in their marches, in their parades. I'll talk a little bit more about this later too because this is one of the recommendations that I want to use. These banners were used all over and we also in the house we have the complete newspaper coverage of the Suffrage struggle.

Ellie Smeal yesterday mentioned that they were recording all of the events that were taking place on television that relate to women. Alva Belmont had the foresight to have a clipping service clip all of the newspaper accounts of women's struggles and they are all there in the Sewall-Belmont house but there in about thirty or more books, but they are behind closed doors. One of the things that we need to do, of course, is share all of those stories because they don't help anybody being there. Another treasure that we have is the desk upon which Susan B. Anthony wrote the 19th amendment. I have always kind of thought that it really should be at the Susan B. Anthony House and I don't expect that we are ever going to give it to them, but it probably should be there. Also, we have recently acquired the desk upon which Alice Paul worked upon and it is in her bedroom and it is where she wrote the Equal Rights Amendment so we have that, that connects us to our past also. We also have many portraits and statues of prominent suffrage leaders such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Frederick Douglas, Lucretia Mott, and Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, and Susan B. Anthony, and Sojourner Truth.

Also we are fortunate to have the first Feminist, well maybe not the first that is debated but certainly one of the oldest, Feminist library in the country and it is the Florence Bayard Hilles Library. That was built in, we opened it in 1941. One of the things that I wanted to mention and then I will go right into the suggestions. One of the things that we are going to do to make this corner of our world more alive is that we recently acquired the steps of Ocaquan prison where the women walked up to be imprisoned and to be force-fed. We are going to build a sculpture garden there on the corner and to make this come alive we are going to include something with the names of the women on the wall and then we are going to link it up on the web page so we can begin to trace the descendants of these women.

Here is what the National Women's Party recommends:

  • We would like to utilize the Sewall-Belmont House as a vital resource in your efforts to celebrate the role of women in American history.
  • We would also like to recommend that the Florence Bayard Hilles Library be used extensively because that tells the story of the struggle of women.
  • Barbara Irvine remarked yesterday that we will be holding the first national collaborative effort on women's historic sites at the Sewall-Belmont house on the 3rd and the 4th and we would like you all to be a part of that if that is your choice.
  • We urge the continued support of the Commission on the building in our Nation's Capitol to tell the story of our foremothers. The National Women's Party works closely with the National Museum of Women's History in their efforts to preserve and celebrate the stories of women.
  • We would like to see a creative use for these flags. We have about three hundred of them and you know if they are not used they just become stuff of which we have a lot of and unless we can have a museum to show all of our stuff it is just stuff. These are flags, and they are very precious and they are very dear and we want to have a better use for them rather than just being in boxes and in storage at the Park Service.

So those are our recommendations. Plus, if you do some sort of lobbying campaign we would like to be an integral part of that. Perhaps we could even have the Sewall-Belmont House be a headquarters as it was for the women who worked on the Suffrage Movement. On behalf of the National Women's party and all its members, we applaud your efforts and we appreciate the opportunity to be here.


Ann Lewis thanked Dorothy Ferrell and introduced Roberta Pilette. Roberta Pilette is currently Associate Chief for Preservation Treatment in the Preservation District at the New York Public Library, a research library.


Roberta Pilette
Thank you. Good morning and it is an honor to be here before the Commission. This morning I would like to impress upon you how libraries and archives support the creation of new knowledge about women's accomplishments in our Nation's history. Libraries and archives are rich depositories of information. These depositories are a source of history that have helped to form opinion, shape minds, and give inspiration to young and old alike. The mission of large research libraries is to collect, reserve, and make accessible these collections that document the full range of humankind's experience.

Since 1891 the New York Public Library has collected original manuscript materials that now serve as a source material used by scholars and independent researchers to enlighten all citizens to the important contributions of women throughout our nation's history. These scholars, independent researchers, and the general public actually mine this rich source of original documents to create new books, films, dances, plays, poetry. Libraries and archives are the content providers for much of what we see, hear and read today be it the newspaper, the Internet, popular culted it in 1941. One of the things that I wanted to mention and then I will go right into the suggestions. One of the things that we are going to do to make this corner of our world more alive is that we recently acquired the steps of Ocaquan prison where the women walked up to be imprisoned and to be force-fed. We are going to build a sculpture garden there on the corner and to make this come alive we are going to include something with the names of the women on the wall and then we are going to link it up ory has endeavored through a variety of projects to preserve and bring to light the many accomplishments of women throughout our Nation's history. One of our strategic goals is to bring more original documents to a broader audience utilizing the newer electronic technologies, specifically the Internet. This provides an unprecedented level of access to our collections. We applaud the White House's role in promoting the Internet particularly to schools. We at New York Public Library, are actively developing our network connection. We are adding information about our collections as well as making parts of our collections themselves accessible through the Internet. One example of the kind of content New York Public Library has posted on its website is the papers of Dorothy Shift, owner and publisher of the New York Post for thirty-nine years. Under Ms. Shift's direction, the Post opposed Senator McCarthy's witch- hunt and gave early support to the Civil Rights Movement. We have also made accessible such manuscript collections as the papers of Carrie Chapman Catt, the American Suffragist and Peace activist.

The use of new digital technologies and the Internet has broadened the accessibility and visibility of a wide variety of women and their accomplishments. Another digital project highlights fifty-six works written by African-American women from the 19th century. This project allows anyone with access to the Internet to view and search full text of these works.

The average number of hits or requests for files on the New York Public Library website is eight million a month, from over 114 different countries. An example of a cooperative project is Marriage and the Law which was done with six other institutions in the United States and the United Kingdom and documents women's legal standing in Western society between 1815 and 1915. The result is a digital collection which is of interest to both teachers and serious scholars and is accessible twenty-four hours a day internationally on the Internet. These projects and many more like them throughout the United States are heavily dependent upon grants from government agencies and private foundations.

It is not just the major research libraries with original documents; there are many small, local historical societies with valuable collections in the areas of women's history with limited resources with which to care for and make accessible to a wider audience. They too need to have access to funding sources in order to preserve and make accessible this information. The Commission should recommend continued funding for these projects. By preserving the original documents and making accessible these collections, libraries and archives have continued to reach large audiences. Today, with new digital technologies we have the opportunity of extending our reach.

With each new audience there is a chance of influencing attitudes, broadening school curriculums, and eventually getting women's accomplishments mentioned in textbooks--not as a foot note or a major exception, but as an integral part of how our nation developed. Library and archive collections can make major contributions in the long-term goal of having women's activities and accomplishments recognized as a part of our nation's history. This will take time, money and effort on the part of government, funding agencies, private foundations, educators, and all cultural institutions.

We urge the Commission to recommend an opportunity to plan such an effort by means of a national conference and support funding that this effort will entail. A national plan is needed for selecting, developing, preserving, and accessing via the Internet the original documents available in libraries and archives. This plan needs to involve scholars and historians in the identification of these original documents related to women's contributions and activities throughout our Nation's history. Once identified these documents can be developed into research collections available via the Internet that are of use to school teachers for lesson planning, to independent researchers as a starting point for more in depth research, for distance learning in rural areas and to students directly. Thank you very much.


Beth Newburger thanked Roberta Pilette and introduced Sister Dolores Liptak, President of the Archivist Congregation of Women Religion at Trinity College.


Dolores Liptak

Thank you. It is a great privilege for me to be here. I should just qualify, I live in Connecticut but our office for the Archivist Congregation of Women Religion (ACWR) is at Trinity College here. I am a Catholic nun, but I am also a professional historian. I am here, like all of you, not simply just for the promotion--definitely for the promotion of the history of women, but also to say something about how women religious have a great story to tell as well, and to tell you that we have been at that enterprise, in earnest, just for the past twenty years. Currently, I am President of the Archivists at Trinity, but for the past twenty years I have been a consultant to those women and men who are writing or researching or organizing the historical materials of women religious.

In fact over those years I have participated in four federal grants. Yesterday we did not mention the NHPRC, which is another federal granting program used mostly by archivists to enrich, to prepare and organize their own archives, and therefore enrich them. Most recently I worked with two women's congregations here in the D.C. area and that is the Carmelite of Baltimore and the Georgetown visitation which is celebrating its 200th anniversary this upcoming year, 1999. Just a moment of background. I received my Ph.D. from the University of Connecticut in the 1970's-- then one of my professors was Mary Beth Norton who is now acknowledged as a leading voice in the history of women. Yet when I took courses from her at CONN she wasn't teaching women's history. Even after she transferred to Cornell there was not one course taught at Conn for another five years on women, but this was not exception, and I pointed out, because yesterday we pointed out the needs for K-12, few universities during the 1970's were yet offering women's studies programs in their curriculum.

The first inkling I myself got that I could write about women and make that significant, came not from Conn, but from a Yale Professor, Sidney Ahlstrom who had just completed his monumental A Religious History of the American People. I asked him about topics I could choose for my dissertation. To my surprise he said "why not do the history of your college?" I had been a Sister of Mercy and we run St. Joseph College in West Hartford, Connecticut. I confess that I knew that Conn would not be interested so instead I wrote on immigrants. It was a great topic, too. I have to do a digression here by saying that today is the Feast of Francis Xavier Cabrini, one of the five American Saints canonized by the Roman Catholic church--actually four of the five are immigrants, and four of the five are women. I provide this information just to tell you that we are really only on the beginning edge of developing women's studies in total.

Now I would like to add something which I think you don't know at all--some brief remarks about the historiography in American Catholic history. I would date the first formal entry of research and writing on women within the Catholic studies to 1985 at a conference hosted by the University of Notre Dame. Three years later at the invitation again of Notre Dame, a core group of Catholic women historians was asked to go one step further to do something about advancing the study of those two hundred, in the 1960's, two hundred thousand women who were serving the church of the United States and over four hundred congregations.

Our group brain-stormed and decided on two tactics--two simple tactics that we have continued onto the present time. One, the producing of a twice-yearly newsletter to update people on what is being done. Second, to organize triennial conferences. Since 1989, three of those have been held. The most recent one of those was in 1998, at Loyola University in Chicago. Let me simply say that just within these ten years, from small steps some great advances have been made in the field of historiography.

Somewhat during the same period of time, a third organization of women and Catholic women have clearly organized as either women religious or as lay women in fields such as labor, and other benefactions. A third organization began to emerge, it was from the grassroots and in 1992 it became the one that I now head--it was complete with officers, bylaws, the whole thing. Our purpose of the first was to expand the role of the history of women religious or of women in general by guiding the organization of materials, by encouraging scholars to make use of their archives in telling women's studies.

We, as archivists, naturally took a more active approach to further our goals and do many of the things mentioned yesterday: encouraging the mounting of displays at communities or congregation's mother houses, planning the renovation of sacred places to identify the charisma of our communities, encouraging theatrical productions that featured women religious of prominence, making sure that local communities became aware of this, organizing heritage tours and open houses. This has also made a remarkable difference and told about what a remarkable difference these women have made in the past two hundred years. Now let me offer some thoughts for the President's Commission based on these two experiences of mine.

I believe, as was almost done in the 1970's, we too have to start at the beginning if we want to spur on all Americans to understand and appreciate the role of women in American history. We need to, therefore, identify women and we need to celebrate what they have done. We must guide research, wherever we see interest in doing it, we must encourage research and we must become involved in spreading the story.

My emphasis would be to use the media, especially t.v., print, and theater through celebrations local and national. We should join members of commissions that are involved with the creation of monuments and landmarks as has been said both yesterday and today. It is up to us, we must be the organizers again, we must be the ones to remember the women. I'll paraphrase Abigail Adams to Johns, "Remember the ladies." This process of celebration, I do want to remind you, that we have to be true scholars and true historians just as we are being attractive in the telling of our story. I remind you that one of the key roles in this is to be be inclusive in the telling of the story, and that is pretty broad. It involves class, working women to the elite, it involves religion, race and ethnicity, profession, yes as someone reminded us yesterday, even in sex.

In topics if we speak say of the role of the schools, about public schools, we also must include Elizabeth Seton and the hundreds of other women religious who were the founders of the Catholic Parochial school systems. If we know the white Prudence Crandall and the work she did for African-Americans in Connecticut for her courage in educating blacks, we should also mention the Haitian immigrant, Elizabeth Lang, who in Baltimore in the 1820's began the first school for young women of color and who also organized the first black congregation of Catholic women in 1829--one of the first eight congregations founded. If we praise Catherine Beecher and her advocacy of academies let us not forget that the oldest continuous academy in the District of Columbia and the United States is Georgetown visitation begun by pious ladies now the Visitation Sisters celebrating their 200th anniversary.

Secondly, I think we should also put ourselves into the position that women be seen as heroes. This has been mentioned a number of times and I can't accentuate it enough. It is a simple step, but an absolutely necessary step that their memory be celebrated in public places. We have already noted how few memorials there are to honor women here in the District of Columbia. There are, as you know, less than ten (maybe it is seven I am not sure of the number), women among the one-hundred Americans commemorated by the states in the US Capital's Hall of Statuaries. Maybe you could tell me the exact number, but it is less than ten.

Our allies in our work then, by way of conclusion, I think are the natural sites that are already in existence: colleges, museums, historical societies, libraries, etc., but another ally as I have mentioned is t.v. and the public arena. Look at what Ken Burns did with the Civil War, fourteen episodes so highly touted, women, nursing women, only a footnote. Don't forget fine historians like Doris Earns Goodwin, fine entertainers like Oprah and Jane Alexander and the work she has done.

Let me conclude that there is fertile ground as we all know and there is much to be done. There are many very qualified historians, many qualified archivists that are willing to collaborate with you. Let us know please how we can be of help. Thank you.


Ann Lewis apologized for taking a phone call and thanked Sister Dolores Liptak. She introduced Former Congresswoman Pat Schroeder, President and Chief Executive Officers of the Association of American Publishers. She served twelve terms in the House of Representatives, was Dean of Congressional Women, co-chaired the congressional caucus on women's issues, the judiciary committee, the post office and civil service committee, the first woman to serve on the House Armed service committee.


Pat Schroeder
Well thank you, thank you very much Ann and I really want to thank Ann. I really think this Commission is here because of Ann and I thank all of the Commission members because I think this is one of the most important things we can do as we start this new century. Let me tell you why. I was a historian that is what my degree was in. I came to Washington as a thirty-two year old with a six-year-old and a two-year-old in 1972. I thought that I was pretty smart about our history.

I remember I had been here a total of two weeks when a family from Colorado asked me, "Would you please come over to the Sewall House to celebrate our mother's hundredth birthday?" I tell you, I went over there and I had goose bumps the size of the Rocky Mountains. I couldn't believe that was all here in this city and I didn't know it. Now, I said, "Why are we here?" and this wonderful 100-year-old lady had been one of the people who came out during the Suffrage Movement and she talked about how she and her daughter had helped pay for that house. They would pay for that house, they would get on a train in Aspen, they would sign up for a month, live in the house because proper ladies couldn't stay in a hotel. Think of when you last put so much money up you could buy a house in Washington for your organization. When you could take the time to A) move by train and stay somewhere for a month? You have seen the Sewall house--it is a national treasure and still no one knows about it. That got me started and all of these wonderful older women came down and said to me "Where have you been?" So, you know a long time ago.

Now, number two I got started on looking at women in history from that day forward and it has been a passion of mine. My newspaper attacked me on the front page of the paper everyday during 1976 because everyday I took the floor and did a one-minute speech on Minute women. I thought since this is the bicentennial it is time we talk about women. They would rage about my waste of congress' time, and congress' energy, and congress' effort so that got it to me. Suddenly, I was chairing the committee, because it was the lowest of lowlies on the House side for the bicentennial celebration. Jacqueline Kennedy Oanassis and Mrs. Graham came to see me and Jacqueline Oanassis had edited a book called Remember the Ladies. It was obviously named after Abigail Addams and they wanted this published as a document for the bicentennial. I thought, well that is, of course, reasonable. No problem.

Well we got to the Senate and the Senate wanted no part in it, they didn't want to see it, they didn't want to know about it. I remember going to a dinner, the only one I've been to, at Catherine Graham's house that she put on for Jacqueline Kennedy, myself, and a bunch of the other Senators to lobby them. You kind of figure if these two powerful women can't do it, where are we? And you know what? They didn't get it done, the Senators had no trouble saying no.

They ended up actually, in fairness, they published it but only to be seen overseas. I mean you wouldn't want to rile up the American women for God's sake. That made me think my Denver Post newspaper wasn't that far off the line if you couldn't even move the US Senate to make that. They wanted us to plant tulips, they wanted us to make gardens lovely, they wanted us to do, but heaven forbid we should know our real heritage.

Then I really got angry so I started looking at Colorado which is the first place on the planet where men voted to give women the right to vote. As you know, Wyoming, it was in their charter. We voted, we put it on the ballot, and it passed. So I started looking at our history there and we were having some rallies and we went around and we did not find one statue in the state for women. They had statues for buffalos, covered wagons, I mean you name it, but nothing for women. So I found the one place where the church was where half were men and half were women that organized this whole suffrage movement in Denver. It was in one of the courtyards of the major banks in Denver. I got the women together in Denver, we went to see the head of the bank, and we said, "You are so fortunate, can you believe what historic grounds you are on?" They were horrified, the color drained from their faces. Again, it was disconnect, I could not believe it. Finally they gave us, we have a little plaque in the courtyard, in the ground. They wouldn't even raise it because somebody might trip and they could get sued blah blah. That is our big commemorative for women in Colorado. That is embarrassing, very embarrassing.

Wherever I have gone and spoken about women's history the most radical feminists are pulling out their pens and writing it down, so apparently I am not the only one who is ignorant of our past--none of us really know. Go visit Rhode Island and see if it doesn't make you furious that you would think Roger Williams founded it. Has anyone ever heard of Anne Hutchinson, the first woman to found a colony and the first colony to have freedom of religion in it? If you think the Massachusetts Bay colony was about freedom of religion I have got an answer for you. It is just amazing how many of those things have gotten distorted. How few Americans know Martha Washington spent all three winters with the Continental Army and that George Washington insisted the Continental Congress pay her. I mean he had it right, and it is very interesting that was part of what Jacqueline Kennedy Oanassis had in her book so that may be why the Senate was just dying.

When you look at our heritage and when you look at this wonderful Seneca Falls that Congresswoman Slaughter was talking about, I mean think of this: you have Iroquois nation, you have African-Americans with Frederick Douglas being the editor of the newspaper up there, Sojourner Truth, and you have these wonderful Anglo-Quaker communities working together... where else does that happen? That kind of diversity, that kind of excitement, and what does that generate? The first meeting on the planet where people call for women to vote. Now, if we don't think that is important, if we are not willing to put that out there then don't be surprised when Barbie continues to be the icon of American young women for the next century. I honestly think the company that funds Barbie should fund the history museum here and we should get moving on it.

It is very damaging to women's psyche if we don't start talking about how women have contributed something to this nation other than beauty. We are just condemned to be the focal point of Barbie, the focal point of "men age, but women rot," be sure you buy lots of cosmetics and you know what that is that we are still layering that on people. I must tell you coming from the West there is no question that women did every bit as much as men did--I think in the Nation's capital to not have over half of our voters recognized for the great contribution they made here is a total outrage.

As you get ready to celebrate Thanksgiving let me tell you one last thing. When you sit around your tables, and they are all talking about the Pilgrims coming over to Plymouth, remember this: none of the women on that ship could even sign the Mayflower Compact because they were considered chattel, but the raging debate that went on after they dropped anchor was whether the men should go first because it could be very dangerous, nobody has ever been ashore--imagine coming across the ocean on that little boat and no one has been there. There are no maps, you don't know what is there. Should the men go first because it could be dangerous, or should the women go first to do the laundry and come back so when they claimed it for the King they wouldn't have ring-around-the-collar or whatever? You know how it came out? The women went first. Think how courageous they had to be. That is part of the documents of the Mayflower and, again, how many people know that? If the men had gone first we would have known it. Funny they left that out, but they went spick and span and beautifully clean. It is fine for us to be about cleanliness and beauty, but is also fine to say some of the courageous acts that all women of this society did so. Thank you very much and I really think we need to move on this. Thank you to the Committee.


Ann Lewis thanked Pat Schroeder and introduced Reverend Imagene Stewart. Bishop Stewart was consecrated presiding Bishop of the African American Women's Clergy Association during a Women's History Month celebration March 2, 1996 at the Chapel of Hope, Shilo Baptist Church. She is a pastor of the Greater Pearly Gate Full Gospel Baptist Church, she is a National President (as we heard) of the Clergy Association, and she was the first African-American minister elected National Chaplain to the American Legion Auxiliary.

Reverend Imagene Stewart
Thank you so very very much. I was asked not to testify today by some of my sisters, some of my black sisters say do not testify because they are talking about women in American history. She said I think we need to be talking about the motherland Africa. I reminded my sisters that I had never been over there. I was born in the United States of America. My ancestors' history, blood, sweat, and tears is right here in this country. To tell you the truth if I hadn't thought about testifying that really made me want to come.

In history, those of us who were part of the Civil Rights Movement and will admit this know that back in the days of the Civil Rights Movement the only things we could do was lead the singing or be the secretary, but I don't care where you look back in history, it took a Fannie Lou Hamer to reject all of that. When they had these programs in churches and all they wouldn't allow us to come up to the pulpit. I think Fannie Lou Hamer deserves a whole lot of credit for speaking out back in the days. As a recommendation, we have a shelter--the House of Imagene--and I publicly want to thank Commission member Gloria Johnson who has over the years supported our shelter. That is another, if you want to call it, a monument in this town that a shelter was established by an African-American woman in March of 1972 but you won't read that anyplace. So I am hoping that whenever you get the history of this together, because I am of declining health. I have learned being a woman that if you don't see about yourself ain't nobody else going to do it.

The great divide, there are many of us as women that don't even go into the inner city to hold meetings--there are women in the inner city who feel left out of the Women's Movement, if you will. Many of these women are heading up households by themselves, raising eight or nine children by themselves. I am hoping across this country that you (and there is nothing wrong with the State Department I am just sorry that they picked today to go after Saddam Hussein to take all of the attention away from what we are trying to do in here), I think what we need to start doing is going to some of our inner-city communities, inner-city libraries, and holding meetings, let the so-called "little women" feel a part of the pie. God created me, us, women in our own image and since we are created in the image of God if anyone has any doubts that God is a woman let me put the issue to rest--I talked with her this morning.

We as women are often put down by society to keep us in an Eve, a Jezebel, and now even a Monica status. I will admit that some of us women have used what God has given us to make others feel good and later feel bad, Ann Lewis, but God created us in our own image. We are the originals, whoever claims that they were created first was a rough draft. The church keeps preaching to us that we were created by God to be a help-mate. A help-mate--you don't have to have a high school diploma to understand to be a help-mate somebody got to be doing something for you to help.

I never had any problem being behind my husband, but I just got tired being back there pushing even though somebody ain't going nowhere. Those of you who are still "waiting to exhale," putting up with the b.s., now at the point that you want to be Stella to get your groove with a young man, let me tell you something: If you check out some of your sisters you might get the same groove promoting your husbands, promoting your children. Who should be more for you than you? So many times I hear women being introduced, they have to be introduced as "Mrs. Bill Clinton" or I'm the daughter, I'm the son of somebody. You've got a name--you have helped make these folk.

It is time women for us to get some of the glory in our homes that we have given to nurture others. Jesus told Martha, "If you like it in the kitchen, you stay there--don't try to drag Mary in there with you because she ain't for it." Let us continue to unite the fascination of Delilah, the decision of Ruth, the beauty of Rachel, the ambition of Rebecca, the faith of Rehem, the eloquence of Abigail, house women like Martha, and the brains of Mary. Tears may linger for the morning, but women let me assure you joy always comes in the morning.


Beth Newburger thanked Reverend Stewart. Gloria Johnson then made the following remarks:

Gloria Johnson Before you go on your break I want to make a comment. I hope you were moved by the comments of Imagene Stewart. Words cannot express what that women has done for women in Washington, D.C. She has used her own funds, she has gone everywhere to get funding. I was very moved by her comments, not only about the home but about some very important recommendations--that as we develop the recommendations the recommendations have to be all-inclusive. It wasn't a bad idea, my brothers and sisters, for us to consider women in the inner cities and the issues and problems that they are facing. I am sorry she left, I just wanted to get my hug from her, but I just wanted to let you know the tremendous work that she has done for our sisters here in Washington, D.C. Thank you.

Beth Newburger thanked Gloria Johnson and announced a ten-minute break.


Ann Lewis welcomed everyone back and reminded speakers to stick to the ten-minute time constraint. She also suggested submitting a complete copy in writing if the time limit didn't allow speakers to voice their full testimony. She then introduced Mary Lou Beatty, Acting Director of Communications at the National Endowment of the Humanities, editor of Humanities magazine, Founding Editor of the Washington Woman magazine, a former President of the Washington Press Club, and judge of the Alice award from the National Commision of Working Women.


Mary Lou Beatty
If you look at our bios, Beth and I share a history. She and I put together, created the Weekend section for the Washington Post and then she was the publisher of the Washington Woman while I was editor. So it has been a long and very worthwhile friendship. I am here today to talk about a new project at the National Endowment of the Humanities. It will touch on women's history but will have to go through a little process first.

The project that we are beginning has been going on for a year and a half, it is called "My History is America's History." It says that we all have a story to tell. You know our grandparents told stories to our mothers, our mothers told stories to us, and now we have stories to tell to others. This sounds like genealogy, and it is a bit, or you know ornamental stories for our family tree--that is part of what we want to do, it's Alex Hailey and Roots and something bigger. We want to tell all of our family histories, yours and mine together.

As Americans, most of us are immigrants, some more recent than others. By definition we have been the other. We have encountered new and strange cultures, we have suffered, some of us have been heroes. Many times we have encountered each other and each of these threads is the history of our country. A few weeks ago Oprah Winfrey was on the radio talking about her new film "Beloved." At the end she talked about how the film forces us to confront our common past. She said, "My history is nothing without yours, and yours is nothing without mine." That is the part that we are trying to put together.

It is an ambitious project embracing all kinds of institutions: o state humanities councils across the country and across the seas as far as the Marianas, state historical societies, the archives, the Latter Day Saints, the Park Service, the Census. Through it each of us has our own passageway into the broader sweep of American history. It starts simply asking Americans of all ages to collect and tell and record their family stories, to write down who is in that photograph and when it was taken.

This is where the history joins in. We will encourage us all to tell the family stories in the context of significant periods: World War II, the Depression, or Movements--the migration North. The Civil Rights workers of the 60's, the protesters of the 60's, now have kids older than they were then. It is astonishing--the soldiers who fought there also have children past college-age some of them. That is already second-generation history and time is fleeting. From each of these threads we hope to weave together a piece of our history, whether or not it turns into some grand tapestry is too soon to say. We intend to have a workbook out this spring; ultimately, of course, we hope to have it up on a website where we can roam and find someone like ourselves, like you or like me. Whether it was someone who crossed through the dust ball to California, it is a very complicated kind of structure. Whether it was someone who fled Krystalnacht and wound up in Pittsburgh.

The website is the most fascinating part and the most difficult. We are still meeting on that but, theoretically, you should be able to find the street where you lived and maybe be able to find neighborhoods or get information about what it was like, what it was like to live in Maywood, Illinois in the 50's which would apply to me or somewhere else around the country. Talking to each other across these experiences is possible; we are trying to provide the sign post, the historical framework.

We have software experts who are looking at how to hang hundreds of years of American history out in cyberspace which I think is the only thing that can probably contain it. We can put stories up, we can put family pictures up, and we can talk to each other about our own stories and learn history from each other. This is not easy, of course, as it may sound, particularly the scholarly part which is of concern to us. Do we always tell the truth? Are there family stories that grew into myths awhile back? That is something the scholarly experts will have to figure out.

Our goal is to create something that can spur out an interest in history, that can flesh out the world of the generals and presidents, add dimension to what we know of our history, and we eventually need to use this to teach history, to learn history. I was talking with my colleague Karen Littleman yesterday and (a kid was saying something a kid was saying) this is not as scholarly as some of the projects we have done in that it is outreach that we are concerned about. I asked her, "What does this mean for women?" She said, "It is important for women to see themselves as part of history." I think that is true, we need to see ourselves in the hero roles, maybe in the villain roles as well, but we need to see ourselves period. Talking about the work we are going to do I said at one point, maybe what we should do, if it is going to be who we are and our place in history, maybe it should be a mirror so we can be looking at ourselves and seeing the role that we played. I am sure that the designers will scotch that, but that is the intention of what we are doing.

As Oprah said, "My history is nothing without yours, and yours is nothing without mine." We hope to meet somewhere in cyberspace about a year from now. Thank you.


Ann Lewis thanked Mary Lou Beatty and introduced Ellen Lovell, Director of the Millennium Council. Ellen has served on congressional staff, and on the White House staff as an Assistant to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.


Ellen Lovell
Thank you. I am so glad to be here with all of you and members of the President's Commission. We don't have too many precedents because we don't remember the last one, but when we talk to people about the millennium and how to mark it in meaningful ways, which is our mission at the White House Millennium Council, we get wonderful responses like: "Isn't it great to be alive at the turn of the Millennium and what do we do about it?" I think that we can capture that kind of awe and interest for the good. It strikes me being here today that the President's Commission on the Celebration of Women in American History and the Millennium Council are kinfolk.

We are related in many many ways. I see our inquiries and programs, and your inquiries and the programs that might grow out of them as mutually strengthening. When we were created, the President and the First Lady, this was about a year ago, the President and the First Lady gave us a motto which is to "honor the past and imagine the future." It seems to me that is the theme of your discussions as well as ours.

We have been busy trying to create national programs, but also stimulate local activities working though a whole variety of non-profit organizations, associations, corporations, and federal agencies to flesh out that theme of "honor the past, imagine the future" because, as Mrs. Clinton likes to say, "The millennium is coming whether we do anything about it or not, but it is a wonderful time frame that lends urgency to thoughts and projects which we can harness for good and I think we take very seriously our responsibility within government as leaders to use it as a time for good and to create a positive vision for the future, especially for our children who are so bombarded with negative images all the time."

I am going to hit the highlights of just a few of our projects, some of you know about them already. I think when I describe them briefly you will probably hear the echoes of much of the testimony that you have already heard. A major National program that we have which is led by the First Lady is called "Save America's Treasures." It is a national preservation project really to look at the significant sites, monuments, documents, art, and historic places that are part of the American story but are deteriorating. If we don't respond with some urgency we might not be able to take that history and culture with us into the next century.

This summer Mrs. Clinton went on a "Save America's Treasures" tour hosted by the White House Millennium Council. It made thirteen stops in four days, among them the Kate Melanney house in Troy, New York to really remind us about the amazing contributions of a nineteen-year- old Women's Labor Union leader, at the Harriet Tubman Home for the Aging where Harriet Tubman ended her life in Auburn, New York still helping people, and at the McClintock house, of course, where the Declaration of Sentiments was drafted. I mention those things, they were among the thirteen, simply to say that as we go out and recognize these sites putting public and private resources to bear on them looking for the American story, we will find women's stories.

There is another story behind preservation that I've discovered as I've been working in this and that is in every historic preservation story you will find also the story of strong, determined, and organized women. They are often the ones to say that we cannot let this fade from our scene, or we cannot let that WPA mural in the post office deteriorate, or we cannot let that President's house pass into private hands and not be a part of our public legacy.

Another related program run in an entirely different way is called "Millennium Trails." It is a partnership with the Department of Transportation, and the Rails to Trails conservancy, and a number of agencies. "Millennium Trails" will be a way that will be able to both designate scenic trails and historical and cultural itineraries, but also help build them. The D.O.T. is providing the resources here, but as many of you know there is a fantastic trails movement being built across the United States where people are actually helping to build physical trails, but they are also very fascinated in rediscovering their history and doing the research about famous or people who should be remembered--the people and events that then become an itinerary--doing the interpretation, calling on our scholarly world to help us, and then printing itineraries and getting people out on these trails.

One thing I noticed was a phenomenon at both the local level where women's history trails are already being researched and starting to be designated, so I hope through "Millennium Trails" and giving the Trails Movement that kind of recognition we will see many many more women's history trails. They could be in communities and states, and across states. You just heard from Mary Lou Beatty about "My History as America's History"--we will be embracing this as a national Millennium program and I think we will see a very powerful portrait of America at the end of the 20th century through "My History as America's History." Because we want every American to have a sense of participation, to be able to use the Millennium in meaningful ways we are trying to stimulate a lot of activities at the community level: encouraging the creation of Year 2000 Committee, encouraging elected officials to take on some of these activities and invent their own, reflect their communities in their own unique ways.

We are drafting a plan to publish in January, a Community Handbook for the Millennium that will be full of ideas about how do you do it--what are some ways that you can stimulate participation, reach children, and reach out to all segments of the community? We have already received some wonderful ideas from the Commission that will be reflected in the Handbook.

So I think after all of the fireworks are over--which ever New Year's Eve you are celebrating 1999-2000 or 2000-2001, I hope it will be both, after all of the fireworks are over, I am convinced that the question that our grandchildren, our nieces, and nephews will ask us is not where were you for the Millennium, but what did you do for the Millennium--what gift did you give to the future--and that is what we are all about. Thank you.


Ann Lewis thanked Ellen Lovell. She noted that the millennium is one of the inspirations of the Commision. She then introduced Susan Bianchi-Sand, head of the National Committee on Pay Equity for the past five years.

Susan Bianchi-Sand
Good morning, thank you. I am delighted to be here, and am delighted to have been asked to be a part of this very important project. I rushed out of my home this morning without my glasses, so if it gets really bad...but my comments are brief so I think I will be able to manage. I am pleased to be here representing the National Council on Women's Organizations and as Ann said I am also the Direction for the National Committee on Pay Equity and we are active members of the National Council of Women's Organizations.

The Council is a coalition of over one-hundred organizations representing within its membership more than six-million women. Our member organizations focus primarily in promoting public policy and legislative strategies for women. We represent both small and large organizations. Membership organizations serve as providers, legal strategists, research, and advocacy groups. We work on everything from Affirmative Action, to women's votes, social security, and health issues--we are moving into a post-menopausal health campaign in the very near future.

The President's Commission on the Celebration of Women in American history has already heard from a number of our member organizations, those that we work very closely with like the National Women's Business Development Center (you heard from them in Chicago), the Feminist Majority Foundation (I think you will hear from today), the Coalition of Labor Unions, the National Council of Negro Women, and Women's Research and Education Institute also. Other member organizations are spreading the word about the Commission and developing their ideas about celebrating women's history.

The Business and Professional Women at their last conference passed a resolution in support of the Commission's work, encouraging their local chapters to be involved, specifically in the development of school curriculum and to promote awareness of women's history in their communities. I should tell you that the full council has not taken a position, probably because so much good work is already being done. I can't tell you that we have a formal position, but I think that my suggestions this morning will be fully supported by the council.

I would like to focus on two issues the Commission could address and encourage all of our organizations to join in the historical celebrations. First, this won't probably come as a surprise since I'm here specifically as a sort of structural/organizational person the Commission could recognize and include in its recommendations, not only the celebration of individual women whose contributions have been excluded in the past, but also the critical role of women's organizations in our Nation's history.

There is now some recognition (nationally) of the Suffrage Movement which culminated in 1920 with the passage of the 19th amendment guaranteeing our right to vote. Many of us in this room also lived through what is now referred to as the "second wave of Feminism" which began in the 1960's with the writings of my good friend Betty Friedan and the formation, thereafter, of the National Organization of Women which is a member of our council. If we are to have a complete history of women's contributions we must expand the historical landscape beyond those two important events and including those women who led those efforts.

For example, many big cities and many small towns today have a local YWCA, but few people know that the YWCA was begun by a small band of thirty-five women who came together in New York City in 1858 to address the deplorable labor, health, and housing conditions for women--for young women in particular and girls in the city. By the late 1800's there was an active program as far away as Seattle, Washington. To the best of my knowledge this is the first organization in the country founded by women and for women with the very specific mission of empowering women and girls, enabling them to develop their fullest potential--something, of course, we still strive for in 1998. Today the YWCA of the USA is a multi-service organization offering programs in employment, education, housing, health care, developing community leadership, in particular with regard to racial justice issues. The Y represents over one million women and girls in the United States and twenty-five million women world-wide in ninety-five countries. The Y itself is an important part of women's history.

I just want to share another example, the National Women's Trade Union League, and I know Gloria is well familiar with the National Women's Trade Union League. Established in 1903 with chapters in cities like New York ,Chicago, and Boston, this League was based on a model, a British model. The goal was to bring together women from the leisure class to the working class and to address concerns for women workers. They had a three-part program consisting of lobbying for legislation to regulate wages and hours, developing educational programs to educate women and men about the problems of working women, and helping to organize women workers into trade unions. They were a model of coalition-building, working closely with other community organizations including the YWCA.

The group disbanded in the 50's but there are lessons to be learned from their struggles and their accomplishments. The re-emergence of a strong and vibrant women's movement in the 60's had it's solid base in the work that was done following the vote by women's organizations like the WTUL. The history of these organizations, their leaders, their strategies should not be lost. This brings me to my second recommendation.

It is not enough to acknowledge and encourage documentation of rich history of women's organizations. This history needs to become an active part of our on-going initiatives to empower women and girls and to achieve equality in all spheres. But many women and their organizations are struggling day-to-day to keep the rights that we have already won with such difficulty and to provide the programs and services the women, especially low-income women, so desperately need. Learning and celebrating our history, unfortunately, sometimes is more of a luxury for us-- one that we often organizationally don't seem to be able to afford. Learning our history is an important organizing and energizing tool.

We would suggest that the Commission consider developing some simple, basic guidelines and pulling together materials and information so we could hand over this module, this blue print, to our coalition members, our council members in their local chapters in order that they could take that module and celebrate in their cities and in their towns at the appropriate time of year, be it Women's History Month or another time, but something that engages them at the grassroots level in the states and in the regions and it is a package that can be fit for local women activists, specifically targeted at women's history.

They could develop the plans to celebrate the history during women's history month as I said or special events. They can use the historical places that already exist, of course, in their cities and towns. The information could be included in the historical records of their communities, in their libraries, in their parks, through books and statues, in the museums, and in the schools.

My eyes are really beginning to weaken but I am at the end here. In any event, new coalitions will develop out of this I am sure. Through that coalition effort and with the leadership of this Commission, we hope to imprint history more in the minds of our communities, our working women, our working men and their families. In addition as we build these coalitions we could help solve some of the problems we work on institutionally and we want to build that sort of effort out there in the regions. I want to thank you once again, if there is anything the Council can do to help facilitate your efforts we really respect what you are doing and look forward to your conclusions and your ultimate recommendation. We hope we can participate, thank you.


Ann Lewis thanked Susan Bianchi-Sand. She then introduced Dr. Jane Smith, President and CEO of the National Council of Negro Women.


Dr. Jane Smith
Great tradition, and I thank you very much Co-Chair for that opening statement and to show initial appreciation to the Commission for allowing us to give testimony and some recommendations. I would like to acknowledge that we have two members on the Commission, Gloria Johnson and Johnnetta Cole, and that pleases us that we are represented in that way. The celebration of women in American history theme "honor the past, imagine the future," is as appropriate for us as it is for the organizations that have spoken here today. It is important that African-American women are known and understood in terms of one of our parent organizations, the National Council of Women's Organizations.

Our history began in the 1930's when our founder Mary McLeod Bethune was asked by President Roosevelt to join what he called his "colored cabinet," and Mary McLeod Bethune was the only woman asked to be in that group for the President. He wanted to have a united voice from the African-American community in the 30's on public policy and advocacy. She found it interestingly difficult to express the women's voice at those meetings. She said to her friend Eleanor Roosevelt that she wanted to make sure the President understood that African-American women had a role in public policy issues for the freedom of African-Americans.

She decided that what she would do would be to go around the country and gather up the names of women's organizations that had been founded by African-American women and bring those numbers back to the President. She found many many more of us than she had ever imagined. In addition to the national ones, she found community-based organizations literally by the thousands. Some were about neighborhoods, and others were about churches, but they were all about building communities for freed men and women. From that she decided that she would organize the National Council of Negro Women and that was our beginning.

We began and we still are a national organization of national organizations. In the late 1950's we added to that community-based sections, that is we have clubs or chapters that we call sections in our communities. One of the things that is important to remember about us as we look at historical statement is that when Mary Bethune founded us she had a dual agenda. One was to empower African-American women through organizations, but the other was so incredibly spectacular and said in our pledge as an instrument of improving the quality of life for all Americans in this fine country. She knew from the beginning that there was no apology or no explanation for what African-American women could contribute to this country except one of leadership. That we were women who did get jobs done, and we were women who could not only contribute to our race community but who could contribute to making America a better place.

Thus, by the time we came to the 1960's with the Civil Rights Movement and our President Dorothy Height who I think is a friend to everyone in this room, civil rights activist and advisor to four presidents, once again, when the presidents selected colored councils for the White House, she was in the big sects, and she continued to be the one who represented us through four presidents to speak on behalf of African -Americans with a group of men, but with a woman's voice. What Dr. Height reminded us of at that point is that in addition to the African-American contribution for the whole community as a race in addition to making a statement about the leadership for African-American women in the creation of a strong America.

We also had no shame and apologies in being a part of the Women's Rights Movement. The reason why that is important is because there continues to be a discussion in the African -American community as to whether or not women's rights is something that should be on the forefront when we talk about race rights. The National Council of Negro Women continues to say that both are equal and one cannot be without the other in the work that we do--they have to stand together. As we go into the Millennium and I was told that yesterday someone on the panel, there was a question about how many women have statues in parks. There is a statue of Mary McLeod Bethune in Lincoln Park. It is an incredible statue--go to see it--and it is because of the work of many of our friends here and the leadership of Dorothy Height. But what we want in the historical statement for women in this century, in particular African-American women is:

  • Number one, what Susan said. Organizations have a role in the future and played a major role in the past, women's organizations.
  • Number two, we want you to understand that African-American women have always been in leadership roles in this country and in determining the quality of life.
  • Number three, for all Americans, as those lives could be strengthened as the work that we did for our own race community and our own gender community.

The recommendations that we make to the Commission are two:

  • As you publish or share documents to women's groups, that you allow them to have how-to pieces or instructional pamphlets that show them how to organize women's groups and how to have local groups that belong to larger national bodies and provide instructions about how national bodies can work with each other for community development and public policy.
  • The second recommendation is that as you single out African-American women to make a statement in our history as we go into the new Millennium, don't put us in that chapter all by ourselves that speaks about African-American women and blacks, descendants of Africa. We are Americans, and we are strong America because African-American women contributed more than we were allowed to contribute at the time that we were contributing. We belong side-by-side, and often ahead of other citizens who have made this country great.


Ann Lewis commented that Dr. Jane Smith began her career as a Woodrow Wilson fellow at Spellman College and that she is also President of the Atlanta Project. She then introduced Karen Nussbaum, the first director of the newly-created Working Women's Department of the AFL-CIO.


Karen Nussbaum
Thank you. I come armed with visual aids, sort of. Let me just get myself prepared. Thank you very much for the honor of dressing you and my special thanks to Commission member Gloria Johnson, one of the great labor leaders and someone whom I have the pleasure of working with very closely. I am Karen Nussbaum and you've been given my bio so I can move ahead. Women in labor have shared the dubious distinction with women in history generally--eerily missing. Of course we have always been there but few have noticed. Are we always destined to be the bridesmaid and never the bride? Well the work of this Commission will make sure that isn't our fate. I want to take my few minutes this morning to sketch the story of women in labor indicating that working women and their efforts to speak out and to organize are a vital part of women's history and should be integrated into the work of this Commission.

In the tradition-telling, the labor story in this country has always been a decidedly male affair-- decade after decade of union men slugging it out with the titans of business, also all men, and our picture of the industrial ages of men working in mines and steel mills. As late as the 1970's when I started working, the word "worker" still evoked a man in a hard hat, but these images are wrong. Women in the textile and garment trades also powered the industrial age. In 1970 the typical worker was someone like me, a woman at a typewriter. Women have always been key to union-organizing in this country. Women textile workers went on a series of strikes throughout the 1880's leading the head of the Knights of Labor to dub them "the best men in the order." The first union of African-American women workers was the Washer Women of Jackson formed by women laundry workers in 1886 in Mississippi.

In the new century, women cannery workers, book binders, waitresses, cracker packers, packing house workers, sales clerks, teachers, and telephone operators organized. A revolt of women government workers in New York came to be known at the "uprising of the 20,000." In July, 1910, sixty-thousand New York cloak makers went on strike, seventy-five percent of them women. We all know about the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911, but few know that the Triangle workers had gone on strike in 1909 inspiring the uprising of the twenty thousand. While hundreds of shops signed contracts for better working conditions as a result of this strike including fire escapes and unlocking the doors, Triangle did not and that is what led to the tragedy. We have a different view when we think about it that way. These women were not victims--they had been fighters on their own behalf.

The militancy of women workers didn't stop in the olden days. By the 1940's more than two hundred thousand waitresses were organized. In 1946 the walk-out of women department workers in Oakland, California sparked a general strike involving more than 120 thousand workers. In 1947, 350 thousand telephone workers went on strike, two-thirds of them women. In the 60's and early 70's teacher unions tripled in membership to more than two million, the vast majority women. Women had always worked for pay, they had also always fought for their rights as workers. Entering into the male world of labor unions remained hard and leadership positions were non-existent. Women in labor--all dressed up and nowhere to go. Until now. Today finally women workers are coming into our own. We are nearly half the work force and over the last twelve years women have led the ranks of new recruits into America's unions. We all know about the gender gap in politics, but there is a gender gap in organizing as well. Women overwhelmingly believe that it is more effective to join together to solve problems on the job than it is to solve problems on their own. Now more than ever women identify as workers. In survey research and just plain conversation we find that women are quick to identify with the label "working women" and feel that they share a set of common concerns with other women who work.

"Working woman, I look at myself," said an African-American woman. "Working woman, that's just who I am," echoed a white woman. A Latina woman described herself and others like her as "strong women because we are willing to do anything, we work." "The women have to work," summed up one woman, "It's not like it used to be." As you would undoubtably agree, women's history cannot be told without talking about work. That includes the history in the books (or what should be in the books), and the history we make today and in the future.

I urge the Commission to find ways to highlight women as workers and the organizations, including and most especially the unions they helped build to promote their concerns. Finally, I would like to draw your attention to several on-going projects that reveal women in history and help women make history. To celebrate it's 75th anniversary the Women's Bureau produced a beautiful series of posters called "Women's Work Counts" and this is one way to get out the story that goes beyond the written word. I have brought a set of these posters for the Commission which celebrates women of different backgrounds and origins and their contributions to work. It is really a beautiful series and it helps to tell the tale in a different way. Of course they are really curled so you can't really appreciate them fully.

I have also brought for the Commission a calendar based on the poster series called "Women of Hope" produced by the Union 1199 in New York which is part of the service employees. This union, the "Bread and Roses" project of 1199, has done inspirational work in highlighting, particularly, women of color as heroines both in the Labor Movement and in other roles in life. The AFL-CIO will be going out among working women in a year-long project in 1999 called "Ask a Working Woman." Thousands of small groups of working women will answer questions about their priorities. They will meet in kitchens, break rooms, community centers , and conferences and we would be happy to provide the Commission with the findings of this huge undertaking.

Within the next year, CLUE will celebrate its 25th anniversary marking history and making history. The AFL-CIO will convene women who are in unions and women who aren't together in March of 2000, seven thousand women will join together to chart a new course, hopefully making new history as we go. We hope you will join us and help celebrate women as on-going makers of history. Thank you very much for the opportunity to bring these concerns to the Commission.


Ann Lewis thanked Karen Nussbaum and introduced Ann Newhall, Executive Director of the National Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives. She also previously served as Archivist and head Archives, Records and Communications for the United Nation's High Commission for Refugees in Geneva, Switzerland.

Ann Newhall
Thank you very much. Honorable Commissions, Honorable colleagues, I am here today representing John W. Carlin the Archivist of the United States, and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission of which I serve as Executive Director and incidentally, I am the first woman to hold this post in the Commission's sixty-four year history. The NHPRC is an affiliate of the National Archives Publications and Records Commission. It was created along with the National Archives in 1934 with the statutory mission to "ensure understanding of our nation's past by promoting nation-wide the identification, preservation, and dissemination of essential historical documentation." In essence, the National Archives focusses on federal archival records, the National Historical Publications and Records Commission focusses upon non-federal archives, all the rest of the Nation's documentary record.

The Commission provides leadership to historians, archivists, and to those engaged in the production of historical editions of the papers of the Founding Fathers and other great Americans--more recently, to the Nation's archivists, records managers, and documentary editors who are working to overcome the obstacles and take advantage of the opportunities posed by electronic technologies. We do our work through educational programs, development of training institutes, and curricula for archivists and editors, and since 1964 through grants to state and local archives, colleges and universities, libraries and historical societies and other non-profit, non-federal organizations. In order to make as widely-accessible as possible the documentation that forms the basis for studying American history. Historical documentation in all its forms is our business, our only business so that is the focus of my suggestions today.

Several of the testimonies have referred to an archival problem that goes by several names. I think the most evocative is the "hidden women." This refers to those women about whom extensive material is actually held and has been held for generations within this Nation's archives, but who remain invisible because this material is contained in collections whose titles or main emphases do not indicate the presence of this material. As a consequence, catalogues and indexes fail to direct researchers to these papers. Yesterday one of the contributors remarked about historic sites, the homes and buildings of famous men, "There were women there too." The same can be said, even more forcefully, about the papers held in the Nation's Archives, yet you would never know it from most of the reference tools that are available.

Why is this a problem, why should we care so much? Original documentation: the actual papers, diaries, photographs, and other materials--these form the basis for the writing of history and every generation re-writes history. They view the evidence through the prism of their own experiences, education, and biases. They view the evidence that they can find. Once years ago, when I was an archivist at the Ford Foundation, I was shown around a collection of files belonging to one of the Foundation's programs. That program was being discontinued and very reluctantly was giving the papers to the Foundation's archives. The librarian that was charged with maintaining the papers said to me, "Nobody ever uses that stuff, I think we should just throw it away." I said, "Do you have an index, is there an inventory of these files?" She said "No," and then I said, "No wonder nobody uses it, nobody knows it's here."

This is an instant I have never forgotten, because not only are records not used if they are not indexed or catalogued, but as space becomes tighter, as time becomes shorter, more and more archives are in fact getting rid of those collections. The basis for this is the significance of the papers and the amount of use they have received. Think how many papers that have somehow survived about American women, their experiences and their lives, will be discarded for this very reason.

As Mary Ellen Henry said yesterday with regards to the diaries her friend discovered that it is only by persistence and serendipity that many historians and researchers stumble onto any of this material at all. There are in fact cases where papers, we will call them the papers of John Doe, turn out to consist almost entirely of letters written to John Doe by Mrs. Doe. These might be wonderful letters, diaries, photographs, memorabilia documenting in great detail day-to-day life, family events, national events, local viewpoints on political and social issues of the day. Yet these collections were often catalogued as the "papers of John Doe" especially if the work was done generations ago, if the collection was catalogued at all. Often after discovering that the "papers of John Doe" was a misleading misnomer, archivists simply put the papers aside without further waste of their time.

There are many reasons for this problem of hidden women. For generations, history truly was "his story," the story of dead, great, white men. For generations the archival profession was predominately, almost entirely a male profession. So it was to be expected that they would index and draw attention to those papers which in their opinion would be of interest to their researchers. For whatever reason, the indexes and catalogues to the archives of centuries, generations of papers, direct researchers predominately if not exclusively to men. In the 1970's there was a concerted effort funded by the NEH to address this particular problem. Questionnaires were prepared and sent to numerous archival institutions. The replies were compiled and published in a thick volume titled "Women's History Sources: A Guide to the Archives and Manuscript Collections of the United States." I didn't bring it with me because it is thick. This is the index. The volume itself is about three or four times as thick. It is a very thick volume, but when you consider that it is supposed to represent the archives and manuscript collections in the United States of America, it becomes clear that this literally scratches the surface.

At about the same time, a guide to sources in women's history in the National Archives was prepared. This was again in the 70's. The guide to the sources on women's history in the National Archives is this. Now, these were done in the 1970's and I hasten to add, and hope, that in the years since then there has been considerably more work done. I can't document it and that any new collections taken in have been dealt with with greater sensitivity and consciousness of women and women's history. Nevertheless, if we just look at all of those previous generations of materials that were dealt with by previous generations of archivists, we have a huge problem here. When I was preparing today's remarks I consulted with many colleagues within the National Archives and one of them suggested that I cite this booklet and added that very few of the records cited in this booklet have been included in NARA's education access project. We might, with the Commission's assistance in obtaining the necessary resources, be able to accelerate our efforts to add descriptions to resources related to women to the archival research catalogue. "Absent a concerted effort such as this we will need to continue to rely on a mix of ad hoc draft and published finding aids, making it difficult for the public to appreciate the extent to which our holdings celebrate women in history."

So what are we to do? For one thing I suggest that we not re-invent the wheel, that whatever we do should build upon the work already done and not repeat it. I also feel that guides such as this one are immediately obsolete the minute after they are published--more material is added. Also, full scale retroactive cataloguing is simply not possible. It is too expensive and too labor intensive, but there could be a central, national site--an office to which archivists and researchers could report the resources they find or of which they are aware, a women's history hotline, if you will, but one that does not exist alone. Staff at this site could at first confirm the existence and the correct citation of the material and then input it into existing national bibliographic databases. They could also work with published books, articles, and finding aids and do the same with these citations. They could maintain a database which could be accessed on the Internet.

A second area I would like to highlight today is that of historical publications or additions. Additions which include transcriptions in modern-type face and sometimes spelling, with text to place the documents in a historical context and footnotes to identify people, events and other references have been, or are, in production for the papers of the Founding Fathers and for other figures in American history. They are a valuable resource because they make these materials intellectually accessible to people who might otherwise not have the background or the tools to understand or fully appreciate their contents. The overwhelming majority of papers projects are concerned with the papers of men, not all.

In 1954 and again in 1970 the NHPRC solicited lists of women who might be the focus of such projects. They consulted committee from the Organization of American Historians. I have with me today a list of the names that were provided--many pages. These are women who in the opinion of historians from the OAH were of sufficient significance and for whom there exists sufficient material to mount editing projects. There are African-American women, there are women from many different religious groups and time periods, different ethnic groups and economic and social classes. Several of these, I am happy to report, have been or are, resulting in additions projects which are either completed or underway--but just a handful. Among the list of women, I believe, (I hope I am wrong) but I believe there have been no editing projects launched: Mariah Mitchell (the astronomer who was mentioned yesterday), Mary McLeod Bethune (who was just mentioned a moment ago) and Eleanor Roosevelt. So those are two things for the Commission to think about.

Finally, whatever this Commission decides to do or decides to stress I suggest that careful thought be given, from the beginning, to the intended audience. Girls of course, and women of every age, but these efforts should be available and interesting to boys and men as well. We must take care that we not create an intellectual ghetto where women's achievements are widely available but unknown elsewhere or appear somehow to have occurred somehow in a parallel female universe.

I also recommend strongly that the intended audience not be confined to the United States. I hasten to add after Pat Schroeder, I am not saying instead of the United States, but I think we should think big. Anything put on the Internet is, in fact, available throughout the world, and English is an increasingly universal language. Care should be taken when posting material on the Internet to avoid idioms, slang, or jargon that someone from another land or another mother tongue might not understand. Books on paper should not be abandoned as a medium as well, both here and abroad. Not everyone has the luxury of easy, frequent Internet access of the likelihood of finding information that is posted there.

For the past five years I worked in Europe where I headed the Archives and Records operations for two United Nations organizations first in Italy, and more recently, in Switzerland. I can attest that there is enormous interest in all things American and huge interest and fascination with, and misconceptions about American history. This is particularly true of South Africa which is hungry for information about the development of the American system. In the countries which made up the former Soviet Union, there is a philosophical vacuum which the Fundamentalist Islamic Regimes are rushing to fill. These countries, in particular, need the example and inspiration of American women's struggle for equality and of American women's achievement which so enrich the world. I would like to finish by saying let us honor the past and imagine the future in which American women do not remain hidden in their full achievement in this world.


Ann Lewis thanked Ann Newhall and introduced Edith Mayo, the Curatorial Consultant to the National Museum on Women's History and creator of the first cyber-museum exhibit "Motherhood, Social Service, and Political Reform: Political Culture and Imagery of American Women's Suffrage." She also pointed out that Edith Mayo was curator and specialist of Political History at the National Museum of American History which means she was responsible for curating the most popular exhibition at the Smithsonian Institute, "From Parlor to Politics: Women and Reform in America, 1890-1925."


Edith Mayo
That is true, much to the chagrin of the male historians the most popular exhibition in the Smithsonian Institution and I think that is not unrelated to the fact that it is one of the few public spaces which honors women and which women can see themselves as actors in the past. I'd like to say first that I am honored to have the opportunity to address the President's Commission on the Celebration of Women in American History and thank the Commission for their interest and the visibility they have brought to women's history. Women's history is an idea whose time has not only come, but is long overdue.

The emphases that I make here today are based on my experiences of over thirty years in the field of women's history which was done in what I call the public sector, that is from the point of view of those who present history outside an academic or university setting for a wide-ranging public audience. It is from various kinds of public history presentations rather than through academic courses and scholarly books that most average Americans form their perceptions of the American past. Public history presentations are crucially important in forming a public consciousness of the past. While it is true that the story of women's history is currently told in libraries, memorials, and historical houses all over the country, the science devoted to the experience of women make up less than five percent of the historic sites in this country contributing to the public perception that women were not agents in the past.

Yes, there is also women's history abroad in the land, but much of it is antiquarian rather than historical, that is without a sense of connectedness or continuity in the past. To use historian Ellen Dubois' phrase, "the history appears as a snapshot, not as a movie." We need to encourage doing women's history in a way that engages the public and encourages people to see the centrality of women's history to the American experience. We have a real opportunity to re-invigorate American's interest in their history and to weave women's lives into the fabric of the nation. Women's history also provides new tools to explore our past by asking questions about history that are important to women as well as to men, and asking questions that have relevance to women's lives in the present. To accomplish this goal we need a plan of action that includes, I believe the following initiatives.

Increased use of technology:

  • Establish an on-line network of all sites related to women's history.
  • Ensure that existing sites establish web pages if they have not already done so.
  • Update existing sites with interpretive information based on current scholarship. Link all the sites to a master website devoted to women's history cross indexed by topic, name, and historical agency
  • Link the website to other websites of the major historical organizations, the National Park Service, this Commission's own website, and perhaps even the White House website.

Highlight and encourage existing networks and initiatives:

  • Work with existing historical networks such as the National Park Service, Organization of American Historians, the American Historical Association, the American Association of Museums, the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities, the Smithsonian, and the State Historic Preservation Offices the Commission to encourage existing projects and ensure a highly coordinated national effort to access potential women's sites in all the states. (Currently, only one state, Georgia, has undertaken such a historical assessment of potential women's sites to be preserved and documented)
  • Fledgling networks among existing women's sites on the East Coast, both those held by the National Park Service and those privately held is now underway. Encourage and fund these efforts so they do not die.
  • Look at reinvigorating on-going projects. For example, we would hope to revitalize the now apparently dormant National Park Service Plan to integrate women's history into their existing Park Service sights, especially those sites designated as women's sites. This was a project that was initiated years ago, but seems to have stalled in the meantime. Reinvigorating this would increase exponentially the number of sites around the country that would interpret women's experiences without having to fund or acquire new sites.

Increased visibility and comparable funding for women's history:

  • Compared to traditional historic sites, women's historic sites are still holding a bake sale. For example, the Gettysburg battlefield site has consistent and substantial funding. However, at the Eisenhower Presidential Site also located at Gettysburg and administered by the Park Service, First Lady Mamie Eisenhower's extensive impact and influence from institutionalizing the First Lady's role as a campaigner to her influence on American fashion is not interpreted because sufficient funding does not exist.
  • At present there are several exhibitions that exist that should be put on the Internet, but lack of funding hampers that purpose. Among them, are exhibitions on the Women's Suffrage Movement jointly developed by the National Museum of Women's History and the World Financial Center in New York, and Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights exhibition developed by the National Cathedral here in Washington currently on display. In addition, the Smithsonian's excellent exhibit "Black Women, Achievement Against the Odds," other displays at the Mary McLeod Bethune House, the exhibition "All Men and Women are Created Equal," displayed at the Park Service's National Women's Rights Historical Park, and "Our Mothers Before Us," developed by the National Archives should be considered for the Web.
  • Create the visibility and exposure that can be used to help teachers develop lesson plans and primary source materials to include in curriculum development.
  • Highlight these existing women's history exhibitions by designating them and selected others as Millennium projects. Such designation would bring the national visibility and legitimacy that would attract corporate money to sponsor them as traveling exhibitions and place them on the Web.
  • The exhibitions I mentioned deal primarily with women in the political arena, the area with which I am the most familiar. Other exhibitions about women's economic role, women in the household, women in the labor force, and women in plantation life could also be considered.
  • A series of ads and public service announcements similar to those done by the African-American community from Martin Luther King's birthday through the end of February (Black History Month) should be undertaken on the Web, on radio, television, and in the print media to make the public aware of women's presence in the past.

In short what we need for women's history is a Title IX. These initiatives would greatly benefit from a large, well-orchestrated, nation-wide, multi-media campaign to inform the public of existing sites, available resources and future plans.

Several new initiatives:

  • Support the recently formed National Museum of Women's History.
  • Endorse legislation to locate a government building to house this privately-funded institution. While I am aware that some segments of the historical community think that this void could be filled by existing institutions, the fact is that if that were going to happen it would already have happened. In this city of symbols the establishment of the National Museum of Women's History would serve as a visible symbol of the importance of women's contributions and focus national attention on women's history. The same argument that existing institutions could present women in the arts was made loudly in Washington prior to the establishment of the Museum of Women in the Arts. The fact was existing institutions reflected only a small part of women's achievement in that field. The presence of the Museum of Women in the Arts has completely changed the way that women's art is presented in this city, and permanently altered the level of acceptance, visibility and funding.
  • A second initiative, currently in developing stages is a national conference titled "Preservation 2000" to be held in the Nation's capital in the summer of that year, sponsored by a variety of institutions.

Finally, why does history matter? Visibility in the past I think equals empowerment in the present. Women's history moves us much closer to an inclusive history that explains and values women's experiences and that shows that women are included in our national past. It brings a fuller story and a greater appreciation of our national heritage. Thank you.

Ellen Ochoa was interested in the cyber-museum exhibit. She inquired about the differences between developing an exhibit for the Internet versus a museum that people visit in person. She asked for particular recommendations for developing materials for the Web.

Edith Mayo responded that it was necessary to include a number of visuals when creating materials for the Internet. She believes the critical difference between the two types of exhibitions is the emphasis on presentation that cyber-museums demand.

Ellen Ochoa asked for specific examples of visuals that are effective on the Internet.

Edith Mayo suggested locating historic photographs of objects can be used but it is much less effective to use a photograph on a website than if you were physically at the exhibition. She stressed the need to locate photographic materials which could carry the concepts across on the Web as a primary visual medium.


Ann Lewis thanked Edith Mayo and introduced Betty Parsons Dooley, President of the Women's Research and Education Institute who was previously the Executive Director of the Congressional Caucus for Women's Issues and is a charter member of the National Council for Research on Women.


Betty Parsons Dooley
I can't tell you what an honor it is to speak before this esteemed Commission. WREI has projects in the areas of women and the military, a graduate fellowship program for women to work in Congressional offices and WREI publishes the American Woman series. WREI has published seven editions of the American Woman. The seventh edition, The American Woman 1999-2000, was released only last month. Edited by Cindy Costello with contributions from noted scholars in history and sociology, the American Woman has become the standard one volume reference for women's status in the United States. The new edition reviews the progress and setbacks for women over the course of the 20th century and looks to the position and status of women in the next century.

There is no real comparison between the lives of most women now and those from one-hundred years ago. In every aspect of women's life, from washing clothes to managing companies, contemporary women's lives were as unlikely at the opening of the century as was our walking on the moon. Neither my grandmother, nor yours--from wherever in the world she may have lived, led lives that had the opportunities and the legal rights we now enjoy. Far more than men, who have managed companies and led armies throughout history, the 20th century has been a woman's century.

The American Woman captures in statistics and essays the progressive changes that happen every two years. It does not always get better for women. Sometimes changes have unintended consequences or are incomplete and women are still not able to stand equally with men as individuals and as citizens. While women's participation in the paid labor force has been on a steady upward curve, they still earn less per hour than men, and still hold the primary responsibility for child care and household management.

Women can now choose to have or not to have children, but there is not yet a good time in a professional life for a woman to step aside and choose to enjoy the special pleasures of motherhood without economic losses that will extend into her earnings over the decades of her working life. Reproduction and employment shape the lives of women for an important set of decades during their life cycle. The American woman, however, lives an average of more than three decades after her child-bearing years. These are the new women, the women for whom there is not a long past, since only a century ago many if not most of them would simply have died.

The American Woman series tracks the older woman. WREI has also published a special analysis entitled The Older Woman and the Economic of Aging. If there are older women there are also younger women. For the first time in the next century it will not be unusual to have four generations of women simultaneously in the workforce. Of course there will also be four generations of men, but unlike men the life cycle of women is being radically altered by the technology of reproduction and the social context in which this technology is understood.

The American Woman series looks to document the changes in women's lives as the social and economic changes meet politics. Thank you.


Ann Lewis introduced Belen B. Robles, President and CEO, Belen Robles and Associates. Ms. Robles is also the former President of the League of United Latin American Citizens which makes her the first woman president of the world's oldest and largest Hispanic Civil Rights Organization.


Belen B. Robles
Thank you very much distinguished members of this very outstanding Commission. First of all I want to put on record my appreciation of the President in recognizing the need to focus on the importance of women and the contributions we have made in the social, cultural and economic development of our Country. Definitely, that outstanding role model that we have in the White House, the First Lady, who definitely has made a difference in women's issues.

I come here today not only as a woman, but as a representative of the Hispanic community, a very diverse community that is the youngest and the fastest growing segment in our society. More important than that, that many of our ancestors were in what is now part of the United States several centuries before the pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock. It is very appropriate that we focus on the contributions and achievements of women in this country as historians have had the tendency to ignore the activities and lives of women as a whole, but especially as they relate to the Hispanic, Latina women of this country. Inquiry into the history of Spanish/Mexican/ Latina women in this country is uncommon. Until recently, European-American scholars have only made passing references to Hispanic Latina women in the development of our country. It has been in recent years that Latina and Latino historians have addressed this void and focussed on the lives, experiences, and contributions of our women. This has been most revealing.

According to Hispanic Firsts by Nicolas Kanellos and Women on the Spanish and Mexican Frontier by Vickie L. Riso, women did not lead the initial colonization of the territories that are now part of this country. As wives and daughters, they were expected to be full participants in the colonization. Under the Spanish domestic unification efforts these women demonstrated to be strong survivors, innovators, and important creative forces, shaping the development of the frontiers. As wives and daughters they worked alongside the men not behind: they tended crops, they herded cattle, as well as raising their families.

The missionaries that established missions throughout the Southwest and in Florida and in California, women were recruited into their service to assist in the missions' communities. As "housekeeper" of Mission San Gabriel near Los Angeles, Eulalia Perez was responsible for the preparation of meals, the allocation of rations, the manufacturing of soap, olive oil, and wine. She taught Indian women to sew in the Spanish fashion, practiced the art of herbal medicine which she learned from an Indian friend. She also trained women in midwifery and folk medicine. Women were the primary healers in an environment of rampant disease.

The 1778 Census revealed that forty-five percent of the population outside the Indian communities was female. Women helped found and colonize the pueblos of San Antonio, La Bahia, Nacagdoches, and Laredo. Between 1810 and 1830 Maria Gertrudis Perez Cassiano, at the time wife of Spanish Governor Manuel Antonio Cordero y Bustamante, conducted official affairs in the absence of her husband. Under Spanish and Mexican law, contrary to the European law, women had the community property rights and they owned, inherited, administered, and bought and sold property. Spain and Mexico made more than sixty land grants to women. In 1798, Rosa Marta Hinjosa de Balli, related to a renowned congressman from the Valley, she owned a third of the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Although some women prospered as ranchers and businesswomen, we had our share of those who did the menial work of servants.

Women were very instrumental in establishing "las escuelitas" (the little schools) to teach our children and they did this through monetary and land donations. After the Mexican-American War and the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, many of these women lost their property and in effect became second-class citizens which led to discrimination and unprovoked violence. This created organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens.

I want to share with you that when LULAC was founded in 1929 it was a male organization-- women were brought in as associate members. I happen to belong to Ladies LULAC Council 9, from El Paso, Texas headed by Amadita Valdez who led the successful effort in 1934 to lobby the LULAC National assembly to grant full membership to women. Since then women have greatly influenced the direction and the programs that have been implemented by this organization. I must share with you that it took the membership and women coming together sixty-five years for them to elect the first woman president of this organization and I have the great honor to serve in this position.

We find that there were many Spanish, Mexicans, Latina women that were trailblazers at the development of this country. Distinguished in health care we have Teresa Urrea, Maria Latigo Hernandez, and Faustina Solis. As entrepreneurs we highlight Maria Gertrudis Barcelo, Angelina Cabrera, Mari-Luci Jaramillo. In the field of education we note Susana Redondo Feldman, Diana Ramirez de Arellano, Antonia Pantoja, Rita Rechart Campbell, Elsa Gomez. In the arts, there is Chelo Gonzalez Amezcua, Marisol, Patricia Rodriguez, Nicholasa Mohr, Amelia Mesa Bains, Judith Baca, and Maria Martinez Canas. The contributions as authors, writers, novelists, and poets are extensive--I could go on and on listing great women that you won't find in history books. The information is contained in research material available in public libraries and research departments in colleges and universities.

I would like to make the following recommendation to this Commission that they use the tremendous power they have in exerting and ensuring that women's tremendous role in the development of this country be a part of the textbooks, the textbook history that is taught to out children. Our daughters need to know that we women were there side-by-side with the men making a difference and progressing this country into the nation that it is today.

I would like to recommend that this Commission put together a video conference in coordination with the great universities of this country. Believe it or not you are a very well-kept secret and your efforts need to go out to the grassroots communities. If we can organize a major video teleconference where you will report to the women of this country the results of your efforts and thus motivate what will come after your report comes forward. Since I am the last speaker I may be repeating what others have recommended before, but I believe it merits repeating.

  • Start at the grassroots level. Community history projects with an extensive oral history component is very important. There are tremendously large numbers of women in our communities making a difference, dressing concerns and issues of education, employment, housing, of the elderly, and they are making a difference they are impacting public policy at their level. This needs to be recorded.
  • Organize an extensive art and photograph exhibition at the local level that will bring forth what has been captured of the history of women.
  • All your efforts must be totally inclusive, all representatives of all the cultures, all the ethnic groups, all the races so that we can have a true picture of women's contributions.
  • Put together a registration project to register all the buildings that have made a historical contribution to the women of this country.

I want to again thank you. As I leave I know the First Lady wants us to imagine where we see women in the future. For that I would like to borrow the words of Carmen Rosa Maymi, former Director of the Women's Bureau of the Department of Labor, and it is very simple: "A woman's place is and will be wherever she wants it to be." Thank you.


Ann Lewis introduces Betty Friedan as "a writer, a thinker, a leader who has changed the way women think about themselves."


Betty Friedan
I commend the existence of this Commision and want to testify to its necessity. It has been so easy to wipe women from history, it has happened. The year before I was born, women marched in the millions to win the vote. There had been a century of struggle, three-quarters of a century of struggle to win the vote. By the time I went to college (and I went to Smith which was the biggest and the best of women's colleges and I got a wonderful education there...They took me seriously as a thinker so it helped me to produce some thought), I have to say that the only thing I learned from that great college about the women that led the fight for the vote was (as I was a student of Psychology and Freud was hitting the universities at that time) that these were a bunch of neurotic spinsters suffering from penis envy. I heard about it in Psychology, I never studied that battle.

When I wrote the Feminine Mystique, when as a result of the discrepancy between my own experiences in society as a woman and the image of women that was universally accepted at hat time (I even helped to create that image writing for a woman's magazine), that discrepancy led me on the search that resulted in the Feminine Mystique that made us look at women differently. Women finally began to take themselves seriously after all these years of trying to play the role of housewife and mother--not that there is anything wrong with being a housewife and mother, we all were that. Even if we did get some professional training we were asked to give all that up and be fulfilled as a housewife. Nobody took women seriously for quite a while there and we had to un-bury the history of women. We had never learned it in school, we had never learned it in the study of American history. If there were books they were out of print. It was a revelation to me when I was writing and researching for the Feminine Mystique--this would have been the late 1950's and early 60's and I was just going to explain why they were suffering from penis envy. After all, penis meant man, women didn't have a lot of things men had and they had every right to envy them.

I didn't even question the image of the Sufragists as these neurotics until I did the research and found out that they weren't at all. Susan B. Anthony was, but my God she was an adventurous, glorious woman. Elizabeth Cady Stanton would write apologetically to Susan B. Anthony after she had like her fifth child, "I am not going to have any more, I am going to devote myself to the cause." I mean they did all this despite the one, two, three, four, five children. I am sure these women had a hard time with their husbands, but they did it. I still think we don't know about the glorious history. I am so glad that we are preserving the history we are making now. If we think about this century that is coming to an end, I was thinking about it the other day and I thought, "This is the century that women transformed society!" We did it, we did it, and we still cannot count the measure of our constribution because history itself has been defined by men in male terms and has not taken women seriously as people.

Even in our thinking about our contribution to history we want to assert our statistics and our proof and all that in those male terms. In fact we hardly begin to realize what we've done because since the transformation we brought about now and in the future, the terms are going to be defined by women as well as men. History will come from women's life experiences, not just men, although men's life experiences from now on will be very different from now on too as they share in the parenting, the work that had been delegated to women. What we consider the major contributions, I wasthinking when I was preparing for today, what if history from the beginning had been written by women as well as men? What would have been the major developments, I don't know, the invention of the electric stove? It would have been the major changes that affected life. I have to say, although I am no historian, I do not think that history as defined by men has always been that cognizant of the priorities of life--of what changed life, of what moved life forward. It would have been a very different kind of history. I think that that kind of history will be written from now on.

Even at Smith, the biggest and the best of women's colleges, fifty years ago, twenty years after the winning of the vote, I did not study the history of women. It was not in the conventional or the sophisticated history books. That is a warning to us that it can be wiped out, I don't htink it can be wiped out anymore. Women's power, women are empowered, and woman are so visible, making such a difference in every aspect of life. I think that it would be odd, strange, almost unbelievable to think that even if reactionary elements got into power in this country and they tried to say that woman's place is in the home and they tried to push women back there that it could really happen, that they could write women out of history, but, strange things have happened.

Yesterday I was reading something that I was amused by. It was the title of a book "The Stronger Women Get the More Men Love Football." I don't know if there is a backlash against women's increasing strength in this country. I am kind of a symbol of it and I don't feel like I experience a major backlash. I feel that I get respect from men as well as women, but I couldn't swear to it. You know the stronger women get the more men love football. What if there is an economic downturn? You can be sure that voices will say "women, go home again."

I want to testify the importance of preserving the record and all the memorabilia and now we have video and can preserve it all for future generations. It does disturb me that many women today do not know from whence we came. They think that we've always had these opportunities, that it has always been like this and that women can do anything. They don't know about the struggle it took, the don't know about the century of struggle. They don't even know about the last thirty years of the struggle. I can also not forget the Feminine Mystique. In other words, when I came to college and got out of college, fifty years ago, twenty years after winning the vote, that whole history of the struggle had been distorted and wiped out only in twenty years. So that the great, early passionate Feminists had been wiped out of history or had been distorted into these neurotic penis-envying spinsters. Whatever we can do to preserve not only the written record but the records of the actions is really important for the future generation. The daughters and sons to come need to know how glorious the fight was for women's equality and women's rights.

Ann Lewis thanked Betty Friedan and announced the lunch break.

Beth Newburger welcomed everyone back and opened the floor to the public.

Bonnie Morris, Women's Studies professor at George Washington University and author of five books.

Perceives the major problem with integrating women's history into earlier grades as being the controversial subject matter the subject deals with. Introduced an oral history project called "Interview Your Mother" as a means of avoiding controversial topics and uniting different backgrounds. The goal of the project will be to preserve the legacy of women in America with stories to tell and the radicalize school children by giving them the tools to compare their opportunities with those of their mothers. She volunteered to assist the Comission in producing age-appropriate instructions for the interview to be dispersed to different school systems. Ultimately, she would like the histories to be compiled and possibly published.

Another problem she noted was that many students have not had any opportunity to study women's history prior to entering university. Her experience has been that secondary schools have labeled women's history programs as "specialized," and a subject for university study. She finds this unfortunate for those who do not have the opportunity to receive a college education as they will be denied this information. She strongly advocated creative programming for grades K-12.

Deirdre Condit, Professor of Women's Studies and Political Science at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia.

Ms. Condit began by thanking Betty Dooley because she was involved in the Women's Research and Education Institute's fellowship program and feels that Betty is directly responible for her presence at the Commision meeting. She had four recommendations:

  • Hands-on learning, take students off-campus out to sites of women's history regularly.
  • Utilize young girls in internships and other programs to be a part of history and women's issues. Encourage the establishment of a central coordinating force to provide these opportunities.
  • Oral history projects. Work with national women's studies organizations and associations to collect those oral histories which are done on a semester basis.
  • Talk about the importance of lesbian and bisexual women to the history of the country. It is a dicey issue that we walk around, but it is important to recognize the contributions of lesbian and bisexual women.

She concluded by asking whether the fifth meeting would also be public and if it would be possible for her classes to attend.

Ann Lewis answered that the meeting in January would also be public.

Beth Newburger provided the address for the Commision's website ( and announced that the meeting would be in Atlanta.

Paula McKenzie asked why they chose Atlanta as the sight of the fifth public Commision meeting.

Dr. Johnetta Cole replied that some people do live and work there and that it is the home of the Civil Rights Movement.

Paula McKenzie, Commisioner for the D.C. Commision for Women and serves on the National Women's Party Board.

Ms. McKenzie began by thanking the White House and the President and stressing that the Commision remember and utilize its power to the fullest.

Stressed that the Commision reach out to university women and make history live through one-woman shows. Praised the work of the Commision. Urged that the Commision reach out to K-12 and the popular culture to connect to the past and prepare for the future.

Expressed the concern of herself and her colleagues that the message of women's equality did not reach the under-thirty-five-years-old generation of women. She urged the Commision to reach out to these young women and instill a greater sense of understanding and confidence in their ability to contribute to society.

Milagros Batista
Ms. Batista came to the Commision as a representative of the new immigrant community. She was born in the Dominican Republic and she wanted to stress that the women of her community know their history and heritage. Reiterated the importance of total inclusion for all racial and ethnic groups. She believes that by reaching out at the local level, ethnic and racial minorities will view the future in a more positive light because they will know their past. This in turn, she believes, will be a motivator for students to continue their education. She urges the Commision to tell the real story to increase women's self-esteem and break the barriers that have traditionally prevented women's success.

She urges the Commision to reach out to local organizations. Announced a festival to be held in the year 2002 celebrating the accomplishments of individuals from the Dominican Republic.

Joan Wages
Founding Director of the National Museum of Women's History

  • Announced that several events demonstrating a need for a National Museum of Women's History have occurred since she and Karen Stacer testified in Albuquerque:
  • "Rights for Women," an exhibit at the World Financial Center which portrayed fifty images of women who played a significant role in the Suffrage Movement. The images stand eight-feet-tall and she is pleased that "for the first time women have reached our status where we are bigger than life."
  • Karen Stacer and Joan Meetrum gave a speech at the American Express auditorium in New York and it was the greatest success American Express has had in its lecture series.
  • The Museum partnered with Forbes magazine on a conference highlighting women's roles in business. The conference was a sell-out and Forbes actually had to turn people away. It was the first conference they have ever held focussed on women and women in business.
  • Held a Scholars conference in which thirty scholars, museum professionals, and historians helped develop the program for the museum. Twenty-seven of the thirty showed up and the Museum is well under way.

Allida Black
Member of the board for the National Museum of Women's History and a professor of American Studies, Women's Studies, and African-American Studies at Franklin Marshall College and a Women in Politics course at George Washington University.

Wanted to focus her suggestions on the K-12 age group.

Explained that the difference between a cyber-museum and an actual physical exhibit is that the Web allows for lots of video and audio to make photographs more alive.

Her suggestions included:

  • Hold an essay contest for different age groups and all different communities so that children have a chance to record history. She suggested that a reward system be invoked and possibly the White House could bring the winners in to have their picture taken with the First Lady.
  • Assist internship programs in providing financial assistance to those who would otherwise not be able to undertake an internship because of financial constraints. Suggested a possible group housing system which would provide interns with a free place to live.

Ruth Pollack
Television producer for documentariesin films and has worked almost exclusively on women's history features for the past ten years. Produced "One Woman, One Vote" which was the public television special on the Suffrage Movement.

Stressed the effectiveness of visual history and believes that an extensive archive in women's history already exists and should be used to reach out to students in grades K-12 who are already accustomed to visual learning. Asked that the Commision raise the idea of a visual archive to a high priority along with oral history.

Her suggestions included:

  • Reach out to the community of documentary television and film producers who have extensive archives.
  • Gather together the media that exists and make it available to the public.
  • Create a real virtual database by scanning images and putting them on computer.

Molly McGreggor
Founder and Executive Director of the National Women's History Project

Related her story of being a new Social Studies teacher in 1972 and realizing how little she knew about the Women's Movement. After researching her textbooks, she realized that the reason she knew so little was that no one had made women's history personal to her.

  • Encouraged the Commision to personalize history, to make it personal to young women.
  • Urged the Comission to make landmarks of the shelters and crisis centers that women established to help each other.

Dixie Hormey
President of the National Women's History Project

Read a headline: "The Night in 2000 We Celebrate the Funding of All Women's Projects at the Tune of the Same as the Pentagon's Budget."

Challenged the Commision to look at public policy issues, particularly funding. Said that we have a "funding apartheid" in women's programs.

Ann Lewis thanked all the speakers and announced that the Commision would talk about their progress and plans. Introduced Irene Wurtzel, the newest Commision member.


Irene Wurtzel
In 1969, nearly thirty years ago, I was at graduate school, an eager student of American Studies. At home, I was a mother of three toddlers now left for a few blissful hours of a neighborhood teenager. Within the university classroom and in the university library I came alive, determined to devour the secrets of American society that I knew were buried in the thousands of books I now had access to. Outside the classrooms and library stacks the chants of war protesters could be heard. I wanted to join them in their wild hair, defiant dress, and righteous cause, but time was precious and I remained focussed on my task which soon took on a particular shape.

If I studied the progressive politics of the turn of the century or the artistic movements of the 1920's or the drama of the 1930's, I wanted to know what role women played. I wanted to know how they participated or why they didn't participate. The books were few but there was a new awareness and excitement in the air about discovering who these women were. I soon found other women graduate students that were similarly stirred and awakened by the possibilities of their research. We talked and exchanged ideas with almost the same fervor with those protesting the war.

I looked through the archives, found names, glorious stories, and a passion for these stories that has lasted for all these years--the lives of American women, achievers and non-achievers, stories yet to be told or re-told with new interpretations. Thirty years later many books have been written and new noteworthy scholarship has emerged, but the treasure chest remains only partially open. Let's further mine the contents of the chest and share the wealth inside. How best to do this? Perhaps we could encourage groups to create plays. We can help to do this and we can start by talking to the Dramatist Guild, the Resident League of Theaters, theater communication groups, and perhaps the NEA. Perhaps we could enlist some of the great actresses of the stage who frequently bemoan the absence of intelligent roles for women. Their names could add the luster and the glitz as we love to say in the theater.

The contest would have a regional base and theaters in different sections of the country could workshop a winning play. This is an inexpensive way to put a play on its feet and it gives a theater and creators a chance to work out the artistic kinks. If the play works the theaters could probably move on to a full-scale production and they would be grateful that they would have a role in the making of a new American play. We might have a viewing of four or five winning plays at the Kennedy Center. With this kind of process we could stir the juices of artists and theaters throughout the country and perhaps even produce some fine new plays. Similarly, there could be prizes and awards for videos or other multi-media efforts to tell women's history. Dance companies might be interested in creating new performances for their audiences. Individual communities would probably be the best place to spur these efforts because every community has its untold stories. Offering a small amount of money, publicity, and White House encouragement for a contest would go a long way to spur activity in the arts. Over the years I have seen fine documentaries on women's history on t.v., Ruth Pollack's for example. They are aired once or twice and soon forgotten. What happens to these works? Can we have them aired during a special week, can we spur efforts to distribute them to the schools? They are a superb teaching tool and should not be left to crumble in some archive.

Now I would like to move away from the arts and onto education, another issue I feel strongly about. At the moment, school standards are being set in every school in every subject including history. It is inevitable that much of the teaching will be directed to materials that are covered in the learning standards. If women's history is not included in the standards, there is less likelihood that it will be taught. I hope this Commision will be able to make the point that women's accomplishments must be included in these learning standards. In earlier testimony it was suggested that we work with the NEA and AFT to ensure the inclusion of women in the teaching of history. I would add to that list the Association of Chief State School Officers. These are top officials and policy makers and it would be helpful to enlist them. I would also ad the Council for Basic Education. All of these organizations are heavily involved in setting standards.


Ann Lewis thanked Commisioner Irene Wurtzel and introduced Dr. Barbara Goldsmith.


Dr. Barbara Goldsmith
Yes, I have to get back to New York because the New York Public Library is opening its reading room tonight. We called that institution the "university of the people." In a way there is a parallel in that when New York Public Library was founded, a lot of the ideas that went into how it was founded (the idea that you could never ask anyone who they were or what they requested) came from a public forum such as this. I am speaking quite extemporaneously because I think that we are a Commision here to hear your ideas. We bring very very few preconceptions to our mandate. I think some of the things that we have heard are really inspiring. One must remember that we are in fact a short-term Commision. We will write our report and we will go out of business sixty days later.

The most important thing I can say today is that the organizations you represent must take up the baton and run with it. You must carry forth what we put into our report and we will support you in any way. We hope that we will be the tender of this bonfire that will unite many of these organizations. What has become increasingly obvious as you testify is that (as someone earlier said) we don't have to reinvent the wheel, the resources are there. What we need is a cohesiveness of these resources and a dialog between the organizations who seem to be overlapping. If there is a concerted effort, I think we need to think in terms of the next quarter of a century or the next twenty years where women's history will be as ingrained as brushing your teeth, when women will know the Declaration of Sentiments that all men and women are created equal as well as they know that other Declaration that they are taught in the third grade.

I came to this in a very pragmatic way. Perhaps fifteen years ago I began to research women's history such as Betty Friedan did for the book that I just published, Other Powers: The Age of Suffrage, Spiritualism, and the Scandalous Victoria Woodhull. What was the condition of women when that first Senecca Falls Convention started? Of course they didn't have the vote, but they couldn't own property, they had no rights in divorce, they couldn't have custody of their own children. They were equal in only one way: they had to pay taxes just like everyone else. Other than that they were nothing but chattel, you probably know this. I don't know if you know that sixteen states in the union stipulated the size of the instruments that could be used to beat a child. Somebody is holding up their thumb, "the rule of thumb" that is where that came from, it couldn't be thicker than your thumb to inflict punishment or your wife or your child.

So we have come a long way, but it seems to me that whenever we leave the barricades things slip back. As a historian I watch this, I watch how the minute we stop and we stop being visible and we stop demanding our rights or as I love to repeat this, Frederick Douglas said "There is only one way--agitate, agitate, agitate," once we stop that we become visible again and by the time we file our report I can assure you that every tool you have given us here whether it is the use of the arts, as the visual medium, as technology, so that these things will all be available. I think starting with, as a woman said yesterday, when she was a child the education from her mother from the school she went to made her conscious that she could do or dare anything. Please know that our Commision is simply a conduit and a way to bring cohesively together the things we've heard here and to be inclusive of working women, of women of all races and color--of women, period.

We want to thank you for coming here. We want to thank you for giving so much of your time and good thoughts and we will incorporate them. I do want to end without saying that you and your organizations will be the implementation force and please remember when you say that we have power, that in essence is not the case--you have the power. We want you to really use it and we will help all we can. Thank you.


Ann Lewis thanked Dr. Barbara Goldsmith and announced that the Commision would discuss the actual report and the recommendations that they will make in it.


Dr. Johnetta Cole
First of all I want to say to all my sisters that it remains an intense honor to be a part of this Commision. Without speeding ahead I would like to make some comments that focus not on the content of the report so much as the tone, simply because I think that if we are not conscious of that at this stage, it is hard to be conscious once we are almost drowning in the exciting and relevant material that we are receiving from all over out country. I have four points that I would like to raise about the final report.

I hope that the medium would really be the message. Find a way that the report will be so "womanest" that it be "so of who we are" that no one will mistake about whom this report is written. That in no way is to say that because we hold up half the sky, we women folk, that this is a report divorced from the other folk that hold up the other half of the sky. Let us find mediums, let us find voices, let us find a rhythm that captures what it is to be one of many many many kinds of women.

I would hope that the final report would consistently make a connection between the past and the present. I can never find words that are stronger, that are more image-making than the African proverb that says "you cannot know where you are going if you do not know where you have been." To remember that as we write this report is crucial--that we do celebrate history. Not to know it, not to know her story is shameful. It is obscene, but we celebrate it as a means of understanding better where we are and where it is that we are going. It may be too artificial to put on ourselves a stipulation that says in some way for each thing that we say, each time that we celebrate, each time that we resurrect, create and re-create history, we ask ourselves what is the implication for American women and American men of the present and of the future.

Inclusiveness has been called for on this Commission from the day that we began. I want to give particular voice to a concern raised by our sister who is one of the most righteous sister professors in Women's Studies--a band that I associate myself with. It is true that we need to have certain words come from our mouths to demystify them and to keep them from being used against us. That is the spirit that I woud say "Amen" and "A-women" too to your call on the role, the very critical role that lesbian, bisexual, and trans-gendered women be included in all that we do. I want to use that as a platform for saying that I hope that in giving attention to inclusiveness in this final report that we can find a way to avoid being mechanistic about it so that we simply say that everytime that we say something, we want to remember class and race and ethnicity and sezual orientation and age and disability and anything else that we've forgotten. Also that in finding ways to avoid being mechanistic, we also find a way to tell the truth. The truth is that we women-folk have not always honored the differences among us and that those tensions are as much a part of women's history as those glorious moments of cooperative and effective collaboration.

I know that we have as sister Commisioners a deep commitment to taking what you have said (Barbara was so right in re-contextualizing what our task is), we really want to take what you are saying and we want to find language, we want to find multiple media for communicating that in forms that end up being do-able. There is a great concern that we not repair a report that goes to that never-never land where all reports go--that we find the ability to do a living document that can be done. I would only ask that in doing that that we do not forget to dream--that we not become so practical, so absolutely committed to only doing the things for which we can now determine here is a partnership, here is funding, here is... We have the ability to say that we are not sure how this can be done, but what a glorious notion it would be. Again, in the spirit of our collective work, and perhaps in feeling some of the wind at our backs to get our work done. I did want to raise some notions about the form, the rhythm, the tone of the report even at this stage.

Beth Newburger explained the Commision's time line as follows:

Outline for the memo to be completed in December and it will be submitted to the Commision members before the next meeting.

Feedback from you will hopefully come after the holidays and after we receive your comments we will begin to draft the actual memo.

One more meeting scheduled to hear testimony on January 22 in Atlanta, Georgia. A specific location has not yet been selected but Dr. Johnetta Cole is currently working on that. The final location will be posted on the website. The first draft will be presented at that meeting and the suggestions from the fifth conference will be incorporated accordingly.

The first draft will be completed by the middle of February and will be circulated to the Commision members who will have a week to review it.

The first draft will then come back with comments and will be incorporated and made ready to present to the President in March, Women's History Month. The exact day the report will be submitted has not yet been established.

Beth Newburger articulated the difficulty of writing the report and weaving together all of the ideas that the conferences have brought forth. She also clarified that the suggestions will be backed up with specific plans for implementation, possible parternerships, possible funding sources so the report becomes real. Informed the audience that any help they could give in the process would be greatly appreciated.

Ellen Ochoa thanked the Commision and the audience. She has found the Commision meetings informative and she is looking forward to digging into the work that is required. She announced that the banners from the National Women's Party could possibly be among the items she takes with her in the space shuttle next year.

Dr. Elaine Kim expressed that one of the things that moved her was the lack of memorials devoted to Harriet Jacobs compared to her owner and the ideas for creating memorials via the Internet and other mechanisms that reach out to the K-12 age group. Stressed that women's history shouldn't simply be mixed into mainstream history, it should raise questions about history and the power relations that brought about how we look at history. She also loved the comments from the woman from Dominican Republic regarding the relation of the new communities to our history and eliminating the boundaries of how far this work can stretch.

Ann Lewis added that Gloria Johnson wants to put together a meeting with the AFT and the NEA to talk about what might be the most effective way to reach out to people who are training to be teachers. Another meeting would follow asking the Department of Education to co-sponsor a conference or a tele-conference to reach out to those training to be teachers. Another meeting should take place with the Federation of Women's Clubs. Maxine Scarbo said yesterday that they were very interested in telling the history of women's organizations. Ms. Lewis believes this is critical because many of the organization have contributed a great deal to society and often these contributions are ignored or forgotten.

Beth Newburger mentioned that few of the Commision members are going to California in December to meet with Dr. Kim and her colleagues. It is a fact-finding mission and these meetings are a possible way to continue exchanging ideas after the Commision meetings. She suggested that any requests to meet with Commision members be submitted well in advance. She stressed that the Commision members be submitted well in advance. She stressed that the Commision members are eager to work with other women's organizations and any contacts would be appreciated.

Ann Lewis requested that written testimony be submitted. Thanked the audience and the crowd.

Beth Newburger thanked Gwen Berlin, the director of the Art and Embassies Program here at the State Department, for providing us with these wonderful facilities and a place to meet in such an incredible environment. Also thanked Ruby Shamir for "working her fingers to the bone," and Darlene Messful, Martha Davis, Cindy Gilbert, and April Caufman.

Ann Lewis thanked her intern Kelly Burke for taping the event and adjourned the fourth meeting.


Minutes of the first day of the November 12-13, 1998 meeting

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