New Monument to Women’s Fight For Equality

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Entryway to the Sewall-Belmont House

 The Sewall-Belmont House & Museum has always been one of my favorite Washington DC landmarks, and I was thrilled to learn it was proclaimed a National Monument. The 200-year-old building will become the Sewall-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument and have access to much-needed funds from the United States’s National Park Service. The decision was part of President Obama’s efforts to highlight more historic sites that celebrate achievements made by American women.

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Bust of Alice Paul

It’s a fact that throughout the last century American women have fought hard for equality, both in the workplace and in politics. Unfortunately, many young women today aren’t familiar with the aggressive strategies their foremothers used to fight discrimination in government and business. A visit to this historic building helps illuminate the work of the female activists like Alice Paul who spearheaded the women’s right-to-vote legislation and advocated for women serving in government.

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Banners carried during the march for voting rights.

Suffragist Alice Paul bought the historic home in 1929, and transformed it into the headquarters for the National Woman’s Party. The NWP benefited from the house’s close proximity to the US Capitol and used their access to contact potential supporters in the House and Senate.

IMG_1405There are few places that demonstrate the story better than the Sewall-Belmont House in Washington DC. This house-turned-museum has an significant collection of artifacts charting the history of women’s suffrage in America and showcases the women who led the fight for equality. A tour of the museum charts how, for fifty years, the House served as the epicenter for feminist education and social change.

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Bust of Alva Vanderbilt Belmont and Poster of Inez Boissevain, a martyr for the cause.

After passage of a woman’s right to vote in 1920, the NWP turned its attention toward supporting female candidates running for public offices, motivating women to vote, and eventually launching the fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970’s.

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The typewriter used by the NWP members.

The House is filled with poignant artifacts used by the women activists, such as a card catalogue with details about each Congressional Representative and banners carried by suffragists while picketing the White House. There is memorabilia from the NWP’s attempt to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in the 1970’s.

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The Lobby Room desk was the center of lobbying efforts for the NWP

That’s why this designation is so important. Thanks to the leadership of Senator Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, and 13 other female Senators, the Sewall Belmont House and Museum will add more diversity to the National Park system. Becoming a National Monument allows curators to make repairs to the aging building and hopefully provide broader access to the museum.

IMG_1411Located at 144 Constitution Avenue, Northeast on Capitol Hill, the new Sewall-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument tells the story of the courageous women who fought for social justice in the United States. Its enduring legacy are the rights and freedom we often take for granted today.

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