On the evening of April 26, 1777, 16-year-old Sybil Ludington, the daughter of a respected militia colonel, jumped on her horse and rode from her family’s home in Patterson, N.Y., to warn about an impending attack by the British.

Ludington rode 40 miles in a rainstorm over muddy roads that night. By the time she returned home, the militia had gathered and succeeded in pushing the British back to their boats in what became known as the Battle of Ridgefield.

Ludington rode twice as far as Paul Revere did two years earlier, and Gen. George Washington even visited her home to thank her. Yet she and her heroic actions have been largely forgotten. Sadly, this is true of countless women who helped shape this nation.

Today there exists an opportunity to right the course of history. In May, bipartisan legislation to form a privately funded congressional commission to study and recommend a building site for the National Women’s History Museum passed the House by a landslide vote of 383 to 33. I am hopeful that the Senate will follow suit. The achievements and contributions of women, as individuals and collectively, are woefully missing from much of U.S. history. Is it any wonder that women throughout the nation have struggled to “lean in”? If the critical and indispensable contributions that women have made to our nation were woven into mainstream U.S. history, they would already be in.

Our children learn about Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Benjamin Franklin, Eli Whitney and many other male scientists and inventors in elementary school. Where are the women?

Millions of dollars are being invested in projects and programs designed to encourage girls and women to pursue careers in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines. Extensive research has been conducted into why more women have not chosen this route, and one of the findings that comes up again and again is the lack of female role models.

If only more young girls knew about, and could relate to, the many brilliant women in STEM throughout history. Their number includes many women you’ve probably never heard of, such as:

• Rear Adm. Grace Murray Hopper, who recognized early the potential for commercial applications of computers and led the way to making them a reality.• Actress Hedy Lamarr, who proved that brains and beauty are not mutually exclusive when she co-invented a radio-frequency device that prevented enemy spies from intercepting military messages and that enables the use of cellphones and other forms of wireless communications today.

• Chien-Shiung Wu, who disproved the law of conservation of parity and enabled her two male colleagues, who first doubted it, to win the Nobel Prize.

• Alice Evans, who, though initially dismissed because she was a woman and without a doctorate, proved that unpasteurized dairy products led to the spread of disease. She fought to persuade public health officials to mandate pasteurization in the United States.

The list goes on and on.

Perhaps if even a few more of these women were included in history textbooks, girls might develop an interest in math and science before the critical middle-school years, when they begin to lose interest and their test scores tend to drop. Until we recognize the many achievements and contributions of women to our nation’s history, gender will continue to be a key factor not only in career choices but in how women feel about themselves, how men perceive them and so much more.

To date, we have seen countless Democrats and Republicans come together to support the advancement of this important project. And yet, though assurances have been made that the commission will be privately funded, opposition remains among a few members in the Senate.

I’m working with Democrats and Republicans across Congress to support our nation’s heroic military and veteran caregivers — hidden heroes — most of whom are young female spouses. I’ve been blown away by the positive responses on both sides of the aisle. I believe that same spirit of bipartisanship should be demonstrated in the Senate with unanimous passage of this bill.

A museum reflecting the numerous achievements of women deserves a prominent place in our nation’s capital alongside other worthy museums, such as the soon-to-be-completed Museum of African American History and Culture.

Throughout my 45 years of public service, I’ve made it a top priority to support women in reaching their full potential. I appeal to my friends in the Senate to do the same. We owe it to future generations of Americans — and to those women who have contributed so substantially to our nation’s rich history.

Elizabeth Dole, a Republican, represented North Carolina in the Senate from 2003-09. This column was distributed by The Washington Post, where it first appeared.