Full interview. Here is a fascinating excerpt - and she's do right!
Today Streep is in Washington, D.C., in order to sit for a portrait alongside an honorable, honored, and bipartisan group of women who, like her, support the long-standing (since 1998) campaign for a National Women’s History Museum. So far, this exists as a virtual entity with a nice Web site (nwhm.org), but campaigners have been working to get an actual, physical museum “Right Here. Right Now” (as their literature puts it) on a property on or adjacent to the National Mall. Since this is federal land, Congress must pass legislation to authorize the purchase, even though—get ready to gasp—the whole museum will not cost the taxpayer one penny, because it will be privately funded. For some long years, the wheels of Congress have turned exceedingly slowly on this “women’s issue.” Speeding up now, though with Meryl Streep as the NWHM National Spokesperson. At last year’s fund-raising gala, she donated one million dollars and considerable oratorical punch. NWHM supporters are upbeat, and there she is in the picture, smiling another little half-smile, on the West Lawn. You’d like to have this woman on your side.
In the current financial climate, the ambition to help build a museum from scratch in order to fix the female place in American history may seem less than pressing. Not to Streep. She says it’s extremely important symbolically to tell the story that hasn’t been told “because our history was written by the other team, basically. For instance,” she says, forking at a bread-crumbed oyster, “we are taught about Benedict Arnold, the first traitor in America, but I’ve never heard—until I went onto the museum Web site—about Deborah Sampson, the first woman to take a bullet for her nation. She was 21 years old in the Revolutionary War. She enlisted on the American side under a man’s name, wore boys’ clothing, was cut with a British saber across her forehead, and took a musket ball in her thigh.” She’s a good storyteller, with a warm, urgent voice. “And her compatriots carried her six miles to the doctor’s, and he stitched up her head and she wouldn’t let him take her pants off—because he would discover she was a woman!” So did she die of her wound? “No—she was very good with her needle, so she cut the musket ball out and sewed her own leg up and served another eighteen months. In 1783 she was discharged, went home and had three children.” Sampson was granted £34 by the state of Massachusetts for exhibiting “an extraordinary instance of feminine heroism by discharging the duties of a faithful, gallant soldier, and at the same time preserving the virtue and chastity of her sex unsuspected and unblemished.” Amazing story. “And I am 60 years old and I learn this story,” says Streep. “I should have learned that story in the fourth grade. Because it helps you as a child to know that it is not just Paul Revere riding a horse and calling, ‘The British are coming, the British are coming.’ It’s not just Benjamin Franklin and George Washington and the battles won, it’s the bravery of all these people that are undiscovered, unknown.” She says that since women are great diarists, there is a huge cache of information that just hasn’t made it into the history books or into the halls of importance (a wonderful phrase I never heard before).