It really came from my own consciousness… I think there was something pretty significant about entering this decade – my 5th decade – about being a wise woman, and being a woman who has endured in in my own personal journey, and being the only daughter’s daughter, and being the youngest one of my generation taking over this leadership position. And, to at first consenting to kind of follow the rules, consenting to adhering to what had been given to me, and determining what I could then take forward.
When I entered my 5th decade, in the absence of my Grandfather whose legacy I’ve been asked to perpetuate and to honor, I started asking a very simple question, which was,
‘Where is the most feminine place in space on the National Mall?’
America is almost a very feminine idea. ‘America’. It almost sounds feminine to me, maybe it’s the ‘a’ on the end… I was bilingual for many years and you know, it has that feeling (of being feminine). Or, we have the Statue of Liberty, this iconic woman… but the truth is, when we’re looking at America’s front yard, and we look out and we see all these monuments to men – and I understand that they are remarkable men, they are significant men in the telling of our history – I just started thinking about this concept of feminine influence in America.
In the absence of my Grandfather, the patriarch of our family, knowing that the matriarch was never paid tribute to nor given recognition, even though she was significant in the process of creating our family legacy, it dawned on me again to me to ask that question, ‘what is the most feminine iconic space on The Mall?’.
I started asking that simple question of others, and it was amazing the responses I got. People would often refer to the Tidal Basin because of its roundness. They might have recalled a particular sculpture in the Sculpture Garden. They might recall the 159th Memorial. I believe Obama had anointed 2nd and Constitution, the site of the Sewall-Belmont House, to pay tribute to the women’s suffragist movement and the women’s right to vote. But, at the end of the day, nobody could point to a particular and intentional monument or a place that actually honored women’s contribution to the making of America. And, it floored me! Why is no one asking this question? More importantly, what are we going to do about it?
So, the invitation was one of deep inquiry, and deep curiosity, and of being a student, and of taking this opportunity to just push pause, to push reset. Even before COVID I was doing a major reset in this decade, to ask myself, ‘What am I going to do about it?’.
So, honoring myself, honoring the women that have come before us, and paying tribute to the women that are among us now, really set a call to action to ask ourselves what is ahead of us and what are we going to do about it. Can we create a little bit more visibility around those lost narratives, those forgotten narratives, and reclaim the space and place at America’s front yard… it just seemed just like a wonderful thing to do.