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At 10, she dreamed of a DC monument for women in World War II. Now at 17, Congress is listening

Raya Kenney was just 10-years-old when she had the idea. She wanted to create a monument, honoring the women on the home-front. Now she has a Congressional audience

WASHINGTON — When 17-year-old Raya Kenney, was just ten years old, she was given an assignment by her teacher. She was asked to dream up a new monument for D.C. 

That's when she thought of an idea. 

Why not honor the women who stepped up to work on the home-front, during World War II.  

"I just think that they deserve recognition," she said. "And I was so taken aback that there were so many of them, and we don't know anything about their life stories. And I just wanted to get them out there." 

With her newly-found mission formed, Kenney pulled out the art supplies and got to work. She designed a V-shaped memorial, with 20 pillars, she envisioned as Granite. 

Each of them would have a profession listed on it, which was held by a woman during World War II for the first time. 

When the assignment was completed, Kenney decided that she didn't want to stop there. She decided to stop treating this like a pipe-dream, and instead pursue it for real.

"I think (my friends) thought I was crazy," she laughed. 

In the seven years since this assignment, Kenney has been busy, pushing for this monument. She created the Women Who Worked On The Home Front Foundation. She also built a relationship with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.'s sole representative in Congress. 

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After meeting Kenney, Norton filed a new bill that would authorize this type of memorial on federal land in the District. 

Credit: Raya Kenney
Raya Kenney posing with Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D.C.'s sole representative in Congress

Last week, Kenney was brought in to Capitol Hill, to testify in front of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands. Her dream once envisioned as a 10-year-old, is now being considered by members of Congress.

"She testified before the committee with great poise..." Norton said of Kenney. "She's obviously talented, motivated, and very impressive."

Credit: Congress.Gov
Raya Kenney testifIed on Dec. 4th in front of the House Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands

Norton said she was confident about this bill's eventual passing. She said it was a positive sign that a hearing was scheduled in "no time flat." 

The bill already has approximately 20 co-sponsors, including members from both parties. 

Kenney said that the funding would come from private sources, and so taxpayers wouldn't be on the hook. The location for this structure is still up in the air, although Norton said it would not be on the National Mall, which is closed to new structures. 

Raya said she will continue to push for this monument until it becomes a reality.

"This is like my legacy," she said. "Or destiny for these women. This is not for me. It’s for them."

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