On this year’s Equal Pay Day, April 12, President Obama is designating a new national monument at a historic location in Washington, D.C., to honor the movement for women’s equality. The new Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument will protect the iconic house that has served as the headquarters for the National Woman’s Party since 1929. From this house, known in recent years as the Sewall-Belmont House, members of the Party led the movement for women’s equality, authoring more than 600 pieces of federal, state and local legislation in support of equal rights.
The designation will permanently protect one of the oldest standing houses near the U.S. Capitol and help preserve an extensive archival collection that documents the history, strategies, tactics and accomplishments of the movement to secure women’s suffrage and equal rights in the United States and across the globe.
The new monument is named for former Party president, activist and suffragist Alva Belmont (known also as Alva Vanderbilt), who was a major benefactor of the National Woman’s Party, and Alice Paul, who founded the Party and was the chief strategist and leader in the Party’s ongoing fight for women’s political, social, and economic equality.
After playing an instrumental role in the passage and ratification of the 19thAmendment guaranteeing women’s suffrage, Paul led the Party’s advocacy work from the house, including drafting updated Equal Rights Amendment text, writing provisions that were later included in the Civil Rights Act to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender, and working to get women’s equality language incorporated in the U.N. Charter. A fierce advocate for women’s equality her entire life, Paul died in 1977 at the age of ninety-two.
Efforts to protect the site date back to the early 1970s, and more recent proposals to include the site in the National Park System have garnered Congressional support – including bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Mikulski – as well as strong support from local elected officials, community leaders, women’s organizations, conservation groups and historians. The National Park Foundation will announce that David Rubenstein is contributing $1 million dollars to support the site and address immediate restoration needs.
In 1997, the National Woman’s Party became an educational organization and today, seeks to educate the public about the ongoing women’s rights equality movement.
In addition to protecting more land and water than any President in history – more than 265 million acres – President Obama has sought to protect places that are diverse, culturally and historically significant, and that reflect the story of all Americans. By honoring the history and accomplishments of the movement for women’s equality, tomorrow’s designation will build on this effort towards a more inclusive National Park System and tell the story of women’s fight for equality for generations to come. Our national parks and other protected sites that represent America’s diverse history and culture will continue to be an important priority for the Administration as the country celebrates the National Park Service Centennial this year.
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