Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Congress and nonprofit working to put women’s suffrage monument on National Mall

As Congress considers a bill to place a women’s suffrage monument on the National Mall, a nonprofit is working to raise the estimated $50 million needed to build it.

The Women’s Suffrage National Monument Foundation, the nonprofit backing the effort, launched a donation campaign Tuesday in an effort to raise funds for a memorial honoring women’s rights activists. The campaign, called the “72-Hours for Women’s Monumental Equality Giving Challenge,” ends at noon Eastern time on Friday and aims to help meet the cost of erecting the monument to the 19th and 20th century activists fighting for women’s right to vote and other rights.

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee unanimously passed a bill in July that would allow the monument to be constructed on the National Mall, but provides no federal funding.

The bill’s next step would be a vote on the House floor. Members return next week after a summer recess, but have several other must-pass items, including government funding bills and a defense policy bill.

The Senate has not taken action on a companion measure.

While Congress must authorize monuments on the mall, many are funded at least in part with private donations.

“How amazing if American women united behind this,” Kimberly Wallner, the foundation’s deputy director, wrote in an email. “To give $10 each to the first national monument in D.C. to honor women’s history and we could start designing and building this in time to break ground by America’s 250th anniversary of our democracy.”

Wallner said she estimates a budget of $50 million for the construction of the monument, but the ultimate cost will depend on the site location and size. Wallner said it is likely that the group  would receive about an acre for the monument.

If the bill does pass, the foundation would have to work through about a yearlong process with the National Park Service to select a specific site on the National Mall, Wallner said.

The bill has received bipartisan support in Congress. Colorado Democrat Joe Neguse sponsored the House bill, with a group of 32 members of both parties signing on as co-sponsors. U.S. Sens. Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin Democrat, and Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, reintroduced the Senate counterpart in March.

“The National Mall is home to memorials for those who fought for our freedom, Presidents who defined our country, and the seat of our government, and it is only fitting that it also houses the Women’s Suffrage National Monument,” Baldwin said in a March news release. “Wisconsin has played a crucial role in the fight for women’s rights and I am proud to continue this long and proud tradition.”
Blackburn, in the same news release, said that as Tennessee’s first female U.S. senator, she was pleased to join Baldwin in this effort to honor women suffragists “who pioneered the way for future generations.”

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, has also spoken out in support. Bennet had helped to lead the previous 2020 legislation that authorized the monument’s construction.

“American history has always been a struggle between the promise of equality and the reality of inequality, and this bipartisan legislation commemorates our long and enduring journey toward securing equality for all,” Bennet said in a March news release. “For centuries, we have witnessed historic calls for progress on the National Mall, and this monument to women’s suffrage deserves this most dignified location for its home.”

There are not any monuments dedicated to women’s history in the country’s commemorative quarter, Wallner said, and that the foundation is hoping for a site in Constitution Gardens near the 56 Signers of the Declaration of Independence Memorial.

“We think that would be a very great place to tell the story of our foremothers and their part of building our democracy in context with that other founding memorial,” Wallner said.

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