Our History

Women's Suffrage Artifacts Go Online

Thursday, March 23, 2006

The Sewall-Belmont House and Museum has launched a large digital exhibit on the suffrage movement to coincide with Women's History Month. The National Women's History Museum, meanwhile, is pushing for bricks and mortar.

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"Our collection tells the story of a movement that's a hundred years old," said Jennifer Spencer, collections manager at the Sewall-Belmont House. "It's humongous."

The unveiling of the project came one day after a separate coalition of women's rights advocates held a news conference to press Congress to pass legislation that would allow a vacant federally owned building on Pennsylvania Avenue to be used as a site for a National Women's History Museum.

The legislation has passed the Senate by a unanimous vote but has been stalled in the House of Representatives. But the coalition hopes to persuade members of the House to change their minds with a national letter-writing campaign and a video plea featuring actress Meryl Streep.

"We need a continuing commitment to the women who made America what it is today," Streep says in the video. "The same commitment they had and continue to have to our nation. A commitment to our mothers, our daughters, our sisters and wives. A commitment that says, 'We honor you.'"

Push for Women's Museum

If the legislation is approved, the museum would take five to seven years to complete and would involve a $150 million fundraising campaign, said museum president Susan Jollie. The space would allow 125,000 square feet on three floors to be used for public displays--about the same amount of public space available at the new National Museum of the American Indian, she added. The museum would also feature a research center, traveling exhibits and upgraded online exhibits.

 Elizabeth Colt pickets in front of the White House in 1917.

A women's history museum "will allow present and future generations to be educated about the contributions and achievements of women--who make up 52 percent of the population--have made to our country and the world," Jollie said in a statement. "Women have not received the recognition they deserve."

Until it is completed, the museum will exist online with virtual exhibits, part of a larger effort to make women's history more accessible to the public via the Internet.

Virtual projects at the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum and the National Women's History Museum are two of several similar projects around the country.

These include virtual projects at the Library of Congress and at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., the University of Texas at San Antonio and Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pa.

"The digitization of collections and archives is . . . the new wave of the future," said Hubbard, noting that they are less expensive to fund and more accessible to the public than physical sites. "It's great that we're starting at the beginning of the wave."

Allison Stevens is Washington bureau chief at Women's eNews.

For more information:

Sewall-Belmont House and Museum:
http://www.sewallbelmont.org/

National Women's History Museum:
http://www.nwhm.org/

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