A new Smithsonian American Women’s History Museum on the National Mall that U.S. Sen. Susan Collins has supported for years was part of a year-end omnibus funding bill that sailed through Congress.

“Telling the history of American women matters, it inspires girls to know that there are no boundaries to their potential,” Collins told a Senate panel last month. “A museum recognizing the achievements and experiences of American women is long overdue.”

Sen. Susan Collins

Collins, a Maine Republican who last month won election to a fifth term, said she could not think of a better way to honor the centennial of the success of the women’s suffrage movement than to pass legislation to create the museum.

“As our Women’s Suffrage Centennial year draws to a close, I am delighted that Congress was able to work together in a bipartisan way to pass this legislation,” Collins said.

“I look forward to the creation of a museum in our nation’s capital that celebrates the invaluable contributions women have made to our nation.”

In addition to the women’s history museum, Congress also endorsed a National Museum of the American Latino.

Both new museums were authorized in the measure to begin collecting material and planning educational programs.

Collins first introduced a bill to create the women’s history museum in 2003. She has pushed for it ever since, along with U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat.

The House approved the bill early this year, but it stalled in the Senate, despite bipartisan support, because one senator, Republican Mike Lee of Utah, opposed it.

Florence Brooks Whitehouse, a novelist and suffrage activist in Maine in the early decades of the 20th century. Submitted photo

One of the House sponsors, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-New York, wrote Monday on Twitter, “Building a Smithsonian Women’s History Museum, a testament to the women who helped build and shape this nation, has been years in the making, and I am thrilled that we are finally set to pass this historic legislation.”

Collins told the Rules Committee in November the new museum would be “free and open to all who visit Washington, and would be representative of the diverse viewpoints held by American women.”

“It is important to emphasize that this museum would portray all aspects of women’s contributions to our history, without partisanship or bias,” Collins said. “It would share the stories of pioneering women, such as abolitionist Harriet Tubman; the founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low; Supreme Court Justices Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg; leading suffragists, like Maine’s own Florence Brooks Whitehouse; and so many others.”

Collins said Washington has many museums that “commemorate various aspects of our history and our culture.”

“We even have a museum that celebrates buildings,” she said. “Surely, if we can have a museum that celebrates buildings, we ought to have one and are long overdue in establishing one that celebrates the many contributions of American women to our nation.”

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