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Women’s Museum $10 Million Closer To Visionary’s Dream

Cathy Bonner doesn’t want people to think she’s crazy, but she says the idea for a national museum for women came to her in a dream two years ago.

What happened Wednesday wasn’t a dream. On a stage with first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton and Sen.

Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, Bonner accepted a $10 million matching grant from SBC Communications Corp. that will help build the Women’s Museum in Dallas’ Fair Park, home of the annual State Fair of Texas.

“I can see it in my sights,” said Bonner, president of the Foundation for Women’s Resources in Austin, Texas. Her dream of a high-tech, interactive museum that will relate women’s past accomplishments and encourage future ones was embraced by the foundation’s members, including former Gov. Ann Richards of Texas and former University of Texas regent Ellen Temple of Lufkin.

“Fair Park has always had a Women’s Building,” Richards said. “You think of it in terms of old quilts and canned peaches, which is great, but this (museum) is about the future.”

The futuristic museum will occupy a 90-year-old building that once housed livestock shows by day and opera performances by night. The building’s exterior was renovated for Texas’s centennial celebration in 1936, and a statue of the Centennial Goddess was added: Venus rising above a cactus. Neither the women’s foundation nor Clinton could resist the statue.

“I think it somehow sums up a woman’s life,” the first lady said to appreciative laughs after a video tour of the building. “It symbolizes the women who may have stepped on a few or had a few thrust at them but came right out and kept on going, time and time again.”

Clinton will have a chance to see the goddess, cactus and brand new museum in person in 2000, when Dallas hosts the national fair marking the new millennium. The look backward at women of the past is appropriate for that occasion, Clinton said.

“Their stories, their contributions all should be heard, so that it is no longer a surprise when a woman is elected senator from Texas or a woman like my friend Ann Richards is elected governor of Texas,” she said.

The renovation and construction of the Fair Park building will cost $25 million, Bonner said. Texas Instruments Inc. is expected to announce Thursday that it is contributing $500,000 toward matching the $10 million from SBC, parent company of Southwestern Bell.

“We’ve already got almost $2 million committed toward the $10 million match,” Bonner said. “Our total budget is $25 million, and I think it’s going to come without too much problem. Everyone that we brought this proposal to has come through. They think it’s a great project.”

Hutchison has already won Senate approval for a resolution making the Women’s Museum a national millennium project and has an eye on federal money that will help the renovation of all of Fair Park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“I want young women to see how much we women have contributed to building our country,” Hutchison said. “Our women have been instrumental, … and I think if young girls see these contributions, it will inspire them to do great things.”


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