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Luciano Helps Craft Bill to Honor Minority Women With Statue

June 21, 2001
Davis Intern May Leave Her Mark on Rotunda

By Lauren Whitington

Anyone who thinks interns on Capitol Hill have little legislative clout should talk to Jennifer Luciano.

A few months ago the 21-year-old intern for Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) noted while walking through the statue-lined halls of the Capitol that the building lacks depictions of minority women. So Luciano returned to the office and started a conversation with her boss and his staff about what could be done to fill the void.
The answer came yesterday when Davis, along with Reps. Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-Calif.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), introduced a resolution calling for the creation of a statue commemorating the contributions of minority women in the women's suffrage movement.

The bill directs that the statue be placed in the Capitol Rotunda, where another statue devoted to leaders of the women's suffrage movement is also located.

Luciano smiled broadly as she stood with her mother and grandfather at a press conference announcing the legislation she helped craft.

"It's her resolution," Davis said of the Loyola University student. "She saw an error and decided to try to correct it."

The resolution specifically states that the monument should include depictions of "an appropriate representative of each of the following" groups of women: African-American, Hispanic American, Asian-Pacific American, Jewish American and American Indian.

It also calls for the creation of a three-member advisory committee to recommend the five individuals who will appear in the monument.

If the bill is passed, the Architect of the Capitol will be directed to enter into a contract for the design and construction of the monument within the next year. The bill calls for the statue to be completed and delivered to the Architect no later than 18 months after the contract is signed.

According to the resolution, the statue would be paid for by a Congressional appropriation.

Davis said he was confident that the measure will move "with dispatch" toward passage in the House and Senate.

But Maloney, a former chairwoman of the women's caucus, said she expects an uphill battle in trying to get the resolution enacted.

"I think anyone who thinks it will pass easily is daydreaming," Maloney said yesterday. "I think it will be difficult."

Maloney has some prior experience in dealing with controversy surrounding a suffrage statue.

In 1996, the New York lawmaker was one of the primary sponsors of the bill that called for moving a 14,000-pound statue of three women's suffrage leaders from the crypt area of the Capitol into the Rotunda, where it originally stood.

The "Portrait Monument" as it is called, was moved to the Rotunda in May 1997 and officially rededicated a month later. (The statue is more commonly referred to as "three ladies in a bathtub" because the women appear to be sitting in a tub. The bottom portion of the statue was left looking unfinished as a symbol of the unfinished work of the women's movement.)

"It took 80 years to move the women out of the basement and we already have 80 co-sponsors, so I think that's a good symbol," Maloney said, referring to the number of colleagues who have signed onto the current legislation.

In addition to the "Portrait Monument" and the marble likeness of several former presidents, the Rotunda also houses a bust of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., the only piece of sculpture in the Capitol honoring an African-American.

Language in the legislation calling for the "Portrait Monument" being placed in the Rotunda stated that the statue should remain there for one year, after which time it would be moved to a permanent site.

However, Maloney said she believes that if the monument to minority women is eventually built, both statues belong in the Rotunda.

And she offered this warning to anyone who might suggest that the current monument to suffragists Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott be moved in order to make room for a new one.

"I respectfully believe that women will remember at the polls anyone who tries to remove our revolutionary leaders that empowered us to vote,"she warned.

Of the 84 co-sponsors the bill has in the House, all but three of them are Democrats, although an aide to Davis chided two prominent Democratic leaders for not signing onto the bill.

"We're troubled that Mr. Gephardt didn't get on as an original co-sponsor, nor did Mr. Hoyer who wants to be the Whip," said Davis' chief of staff, Richard Boykin, referring to Minority Leader Richard Gephardt (D-Mo.) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), who is running for Democratic Whip.

Boykin said he couldn't understand why Gephardt and the House Administration ranking member haven't signed onto the bill, "unless they want to maintain the status quo" of having no minority women depicted in the Capitol Rotunda.

"We can't accept that, not in 2001," Boykin said.

Boykin said he also reached out to Republican Conference Chairman J.C. Watts (Okla.), the only African-American Republican in Congress, and Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), but both declined to sign on.

Meanwhile, Davis said he has yet to pin down a sponsor in the Senate, although he expects finding one will be an easy task.

"We're pretty confident that we've got a person over there that will take care of it for us," Davis said, adding that his preference would be to find a female Senator to sponsor the bill.

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