April 8, 2001
museum might inspire you to make your own
By Karen Strawn
to the American-Statesman
rising from a cactus at the entrance to The Women's Museum: An Institute
for the Future in Dallas is that of a "real woman."
I know because
when I stood underneath her and looked up, I saw her thighs touching
and cellulite around the outside of her legs. Her legs looked like
mine, I thought, or Marilyn Monroe's. (Marilyn was a size 14, you
know.) My face flushed with the warmth of recognition and I smiled
about the connection I felt between this statue and me. I confidently
opened the door to the museum for my mother, father and 8-year-old
son, and we all stepped inside.
Because we live in Texas,
we didn't have to travel far to experience what some families travel
around the world to see: the only comprehensive women's museum.
is high-tech and streamlined, a brilliant contrast from the art
deco exterior of the warehouse building in historic Fair Park. The
first thing to see is a gigantic video screen divided into smaller
TV screens, like an electronic quilt. The main room is large and
I began at the end. I felt a bit unleashed, not knowing which corridor
to take from the huge hardwood-floor main room where the electronic
quilt flashed patchwork pictures of women I was about to meet. My
mom stayed with me on the first floor while my dad and my son took
the glass elevator to the second floor.
into a room called "Cyberspace Connections" with dim lights
and "Star Trek"-like computer stations, where you can
leave your story, tell your opinion, join the Women's Museum or
visit the Web site. I left my story in the museum's permanent
digital archives. Forever captured for future generations to read
is a three-paragraph summary of my life, including the importance
of my mom's influence, a description of the many hats I wear as
a woman and my dreams and goals.
For the next three hours,
my family and I explored the wonders of women's history.
stories of well-known women from the past, including Amelia Earhart,
Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony and Eleanor Roosevelt, there were
new women I learned about.They included Frances Gabe, builder/conceptualist
of a self-cleaning house in Oregon; Bette Graham, inventor of liquid
paper; Many Engle Pennington, mother of refrigeration; Elizabeth
Maggie Phillips, a young teacher who invented the original Monopoly
board in 1904; and Lillian Gilbreth, who invented the step-on lid
All of this
was very good and fine. But it wasn't until I stumbled upon a kiosk
like exhibit that I felt my Women's Museum experience come full
circle. There, in the middle of the museum, was a body image exhibit
featuring three types of body shapes: Marilyn Monroe, Raquel Welch
and a beautiful dark-skinned model whose thighs did not touch.
noted that "real women" weigh an average of 144 pounds
and wear a size 12-14. Women with "super model" body-types
make up only five percent of the population. This confirmed what
I already knew: I am just as extraordinary and stunningly beautiful
as the statue outside.
giddy and sentimental, I couldn't help but wonder what legacy I
would leave behind.
Then I caught
my reflection in one of the "Unforgettable Women" glass
case exhibits that had a sign that read, "New Feature Under
Construction," and I saw myself in that exhibit - what will
my story be?