Cathy Bonner Video Transcript

CATHY: My activism has always been on behalf of improving women's lives and it's what I have been able to have some degree of effectiveness in. So, that activism taken to the next level, I think, is to understand the significance of where we come from. I've often said, ‘you can't know where you are going if you don't know where you have been.'

CATHY: When I was a student, I was involved in the early days of the women's movement, and there was just a burning desire, I guess, to feel like opportunity should be equal and that barriers should be removed so that everyone could participate in a free and open society.

CATHY: There was a lot of work to do at the early days of the women's movement, both at the state and at the national level. There were so many laws that were unfair to women back in the early 70's and we needed to change those.

CATHY: The first time I tried to get a loan in business, I was told I would have to have my father sign the loan for me because I was a woman, and they didn't give women credit in their own name.

CATHY: We've changed laws that have pertained to rape victims. In the past it was been very, very hard to get a conviction in a rape or assault case. And we changed the law on how a victim was treated in the courtroom, and we standardized medical procedures on the gathering of evidence so more convictions would be possible. I worked on laws that changed, such as teachers weren't allowed to keep teaching in the classroom if they became pregnant. So we needed to change that law at the Texas legislature.

CATHY: Our mission is to honor the past and shape the future. And honoring the past means knowing the stories, and sharing the stories.

CATHY: I had this dream about starting the nation's only women's history museum. It was unbelievable, there were 8,000 museums in the world, but there was not one comprehensive women's history museum.

CATHY: The biggest challenge I faced, in trying to make this dream of establishing a women's history museum into a reality, was that we didn't have any money. We had a great idea, and we didn't have any money, but we had a secret weapon. We went to those women who believed that it was time and it was only fair that we had a national women's history museum in the United States, and they opened corporate doors, and opened doors to corporate foundations. They opened their own purses and gave money.

CATHY: We used that network of women all over this country to help us raise 32 million dollars.

CATHY: When we found the building it was in such bad shape, it was about to fall down. It had holes in it the size you could drive a minivan through. But I could see the beauty of it, and it had a lot of possibilities, especially when we went around to the front. And we saw that there was this statue, in front of the museum, that was a woman, I think she was supposed to be Venus rising from a cactus.

CATHY: I tell you, one of the most overwhelming parts of building a national women's history museum is what to put in the museum. How do you take women's history in this continent, and in this country. So we really went back five hundred years in history, and boiled it down into 25,000 square feet.

CATHY: In the museum we have over 3000 stories of American women. Wonderful stories like the story of Maggie Walker. Maggie Walker, at the turn of the twentieth century, was an entrepreneur. An African-American woman from Richmond, Virginia, who started a bank, who started selling insurance to the African American community that never had the opportunity to buy any kind of insurance before, and became a millionaire and philanthropist helping her community. She was the first woman bank president in the United States .

CATHY: The number of people that go through the museum, men and women, and come and tell me or write me a note that it was a very moving experience. And that was one of our goals that when you left the women's museum you would say, ‘Gosh, I didn't know so-and-so did this' or ‘I didn't know that Eli Whitney's patent for the cotton gin was paid for by a woman because she couldn't get a patent in her own name.'

CATHY: So the stories that we tell in the museum of women's history are the stories of accomplishments, contributions, overcoming great odds and barriers. That's why I think learning the lessons of history, knowing these stories of women that have struggled and brought about great change for us so that we live such free and open and active lives is very important, especially to young girls and the next generations so that they never forget they are standing on the shoulders of some very brave and courageous women.