The women you don't know -- yet

Early 20th century actress Hedy Lamarr invented technology key to modern-day cell phones.

Story highlights

  • March is National Women's Month
  • Four members of Congress are pushing for a National Women's History Museum
  • They say that as the story of our country is told, women have tended to be left out of the telling

Did you know that the "frequency hopping" technology that is vital to much of our military technology and helps keep your cell phone and your GPS devices secure was developed and patented by a famous movie star?

Did you know that there was an amazing 16-year-old patriot who outdid Paul Revere, riding 45 miles in the pouring rain to warn New York colonial militias that "the British are coming"?

Did you know that there was a secret agent, code named "355," who worked for George Washington's band of spies, the Culper Ring? The agent supplied key intelligence on British activities during the Revolutionary War, and she was so good at keeping a secret that we still don't know her real name.

If you don't know about all these people, it's understandable. Their stories aren't told widely or often -- perhaps because they were all women. For some reason or other, when the story of our country is told, women -- really great women -- have tended to be left out of the telling.

You see the results everywhere you look:

-- A survey of U.S. history textbooks found that only 10% of the individuals identified in the texts were women.

-- Less than 8% of the 2,560 national historic landmarks chronicle the achievements of women.

-- Of the 210 statues in the U.S. Capitol, only 15 are of female leaders.

That's the bad news. The good news is that thanks to a strong bipartisan effort in Congress, we may soon be one step closer to addressing this imbalance by establishing a National Women's History Museum in Washington. Together, we have introduced a common-sense bill to move this idea forward.

We have more than 73 bipartisan co-sponsors in the House, 19 in the Senate and a national coalition of women's groups behind us. We recognize money is tight -- that's why we're not asking for taxpayer support. Private donations would fund the museum's construction and operation.

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A vital part of recognizing equal rights for women is acknowledging and commemorating the deep and lasting contributions women have made throughout history. When young people visit our nation's capital, they should have a chance to be just as inspired by women's accomplishments as men's.

We establish and operate museums, not just as some kind of giant drawer in which to store our memorabilia, but as way to celebrate our accomplishments, affirm our shared values and preserve the full and accurate story of our common history. And unfortunately, only half of that story is presently being told.

The stories of courageous and pioneering Americans such as abolitionist Harriet Tubman, astronaut Sally Ride, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and the founder of the Girl Scouts, Juliette Gordon Low, will inform and inspire future generations.

The remarkable women who helped to make this country what it is today deserve to have their histories told and preserved for the ages. Their stories of success are the stories that will inspire and encourage millions of women. Our daughters and our sons deserve the chance to learn the story -- the full story -- of how this amazing country came to be.

And by the way, the movie star inventor? That was Hedy Lamarr.

The 16 year-old who rode farther than Paul Revere was Sybil Ludington.

And the spy, code named "355"? Well, we still don't know the name -- but we know the patriot was a "she."

And just wait until you see all the other amazing women and American history you'll learn about one day soon when the National Women's History Museum opens.

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