EDUCATION

Meryl Streep, other stars push for a National Women's History Museum

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It took women 72 years to win the right to vote, but advocates are hoping it doesn't take that long to open a National Women's History Museum in Washington.

Meryl Streep arrives for the European premiere of The Iron Lady. (AP Photo/Jonathan Short)

The campaign to build the museum began in 1996 and has recently gotten the backing of some Hollywood heavyweights, but the project faces challenges, both financial and political.

"Much of women's history is still not in our history textbooks, not in our national parks," said Joan Wages, an advocate for the museum. "If you go to the nation's Capitol, only 13 of 217 statues are of women leaders."

Wages is on a crusade to bring the museum to the National Mall and has gathered some star-studded support, featured in this month's Vogue magazine.

One of the biggest names: actress Meryl Streep, known for playing strong female characters like the "Iron Lady." Streep alone has committed $1 million to the effort.

"She has three daughters, so she understands what a difference it would make if these women knew about the women who came before."

The proposed location for the museum is near the intersection of 12th Street and Independence Avenue SW, situated between the Department of Energy and Agriculture. There are logistical and financial challenges to building the space because any new structure would have to go on top of the 12th Street Expressway.

There are also legislative challenges. Senators Jim DeMint and Tom Coburn have stopped Congressional approval of the museum. There are rumors that the senators are fearful abortion politics might be featured in exhibits.

But aides say their concerns are financial. They don't want taxpayers footing the bill for the museum--$150 million--little of which has been raised. They also say the new institution would duplicate more than 100 similar museums across the country.

Wages argues that women's history deserves a national platform in Washington, D.C. and she's working to gain support from the two senators

"It's very bi-partisan and we've worked at that over the years," Wages said. "Women from both sides of the aisle have done some phenomenal things."

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