Proponent Testimony – Dr. Lynette Long, 5530 Wisconsin Avenue, Chevy Chase, MD 20815
Thank you Chairman Wagoner, Vice Chairman Letson and members of The National Statuary Collection Study Committee. I appreciate the opportunity to come before you today to discuss my support for Catherine Beecher.
National Statuary Hall, created in 1864 out of the old House of Representatives Chamber, is a majestic place of honor for two Americans from each of the fifty states. In National Statuary Hall there are presidents, senators, governors, religious leaders, soldiers, writers, inventors, artists, educators, and even an astronaut, but few women. Ohio’s two statues, President James Garfield and Governor William Allen were both selected and placed in NSH in the 1880’s, decades before women had the right to vote or participate in the political process. With the search for a replacement for Governor Allen, Ohio has an opportunity to select a woman and increase the number of woman statues in NSH from nine to ten. If this committee elects to honor a woman, women would still be vastly under-represented, but it would be one small step toward gender parity.
In 1961, I was a freshman at Lutheran East High School in Cleveland Heights, John F. Kennedy was the President, and only five statues of women graced National Statuary Hall. Now, almost 50 years later there are only four additional statues of women are in National Statuary Hall. In addition, there never has been a single image of a woman on our paper currency and in 2009, only 25% of the people portrayed on stamps were women. Why are women who comprise over half of the population, so under-represented in our nation’s symbols and icons.
Inevitably almost every woman hits a professional glass ceiling, an internal and external limit on her achievement caused by both early programming and the subtle sexism that permeates our culture. For the young girl visiting National Statuary Hall, the teenage girl using money to buy a pair of jeans, or the adult woman putting a stamp on a letter, the message is clear, you are invisible, you don’t matter. For our nation to move forward the achievements of women need to be recognized and women need to be given full symbolic equality. As a psychologist I know that 80% of communication is non-verbal, and that the lack of visual images of women leaders has a significant negative impact on girls and women. Can you imagine being a young girl and walking into a room in our nation’s Capitol to honor great Americans only to find yourself surrounded by 16 foot statues of men. You might tell your daughter, you can be anything, but the statues tell a different story. The visual over-rides the verbal. She doesn’t hear, yes you can, but no you can’t.
I would like the men in the room to imagine living in my world. Imagine how you would feel if all the statues inside outside and inside this building were of a women, and all the paintings on the walls of this building were of women leaders, and when you opened your wallet to pay for your lunch only images of women were on the money, and every president, and vice president in our history was a women. Would you stand where you stand today if that were our nation’s legacy? Would you want to take your son on a tour of National Statuary Hall if it contained ninety-one statues of women and only nine of men?
Ohio has a chance to right a wrong and has many great women to choose from to put in National Statuary Hall: Lucy Webb Hayes, a beloved First Lady; Harriet Taylor Upton, suffragette and author; Victoria Woodhull, the first woman to run for president; Annie Oakley, an archetypal western woman and philanthropist; and of course abolitionist and author, Harriet Beecher Stowe.
However, of all the great Ohio women available to choose from my personal choice is American educator and author, Catherine Beecher. Catherine Esther Beecher, the oldest of Lyman Beecher’s thirteen children was born in 1800. Initially educated at home because she had to care for her younger siblings, she was sent to a private school at age ten where she was taught the limited curriculum available to girls. She taught herself the subjects not offered in girl’s schools and became a teacher. By age 24, she opened a school for young women in Hartford, Connecticut known as the Hartford Female Seminary. Catherine moved to Cincinnati with her father and sister in 1832 and founded the Western Female Institute. In 1852, she established the American Woman's Educational Association to expand the number of teachers in schools on the western frontier.
Catherine Beecher has many noteworthy accomplishments.
1. Catherine Beecher founded the field of Home Economics. She thought running a household and raising children was a complex task and should be treated with respect. She believed girls should be educated equally to boys to prepare them for this task and so they could foster the education and moral development of their children.
2. Catherine Beecher worked on the famous McGuffey readers the largest selling textbooks in history and the first nationally-adopted textbooks for elementary students.
3. Catherine Beecher started some of the first colleges for women at Burlington, Iowa, Quincy, Illinois, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
4. Catherine Beecher believed in and promoted physical education for girls.
5. Finally, Catherine Beecher published several books including The American Woman’s Home, The Moral Instructor for Schools and Families and A Treatise on Domestic Economy for the Use of Young Ladies at Home and at School. You can still buy these books on Amazon today.
I respect Catherine Beecher because I am an educator. I taught high school, served as a principal of both an elementary and middle school, served on the faculties of numerous universities, and I had the honor of spending one year in Korea and one year in Japan educating our servicemen and women. I believe there is nothing more important than education and my entire life reflects that truth. But most things children learn are not learned in school. Children learn both intellectual and emotional lessons from their parents, their environment, and the symbols and icons that surround them. It is a little known fact that self-esteem is a greater predictor of success than IQ. Unfortunately our country’s culture and ions does not foster the self-esteem of both genders equally. Helping girls feel good about themselves is not only our moral duty, but important to our success as a nation. Only when women are fully included in our nation’s history can they fully contribute to our nation’s future.
The person selected to represent Ohio as a statue in National Statuary Hall, belongs to the citizens of Ohio, but the selection will be placed in the United States Capitol and will be viewed by over a half-million people a year. I urge the committee to choose a woman to represent Ohio. My choice for that woman is Catherine Beecher for her long-lasting contributions both to the education of the young women of Ohio and this nation. I understand Catherine Beecher was not born in Ohio, but 56 of the persons currently honored in NSH were not born in the states they represent.
Thank you for allowing for me to share my support for Catherine Beecher with you today. I will answer any questions that committee may have.