Women have made strides in America since the birth of our great nation; however women are still not treated as equal to their male counterparts. On the heel of Women‚Äôs History Month and on Equal Pay Day‚Äìa symbolic day when women’s earnings ‚Äúcatch up‚Äù to men’s earnings from the previous year‚Äìsomething amazing happened on Capitol Hill.
President Barack Obama designated a national monument to commemorate the women‚Äôs equality movement. The new Belmont-Paul Women‚Äôs Equality National Monument will protect the historic house, which served as the National Woman‚Äôs Party headquarters, as well as amplify the stories, memories, and achievement of the women who were deeply committed to gaining women‚Äôs suffrage and equal rights in the United States.
May it stand for years and years to come, telling of the work that the women of the United States have accomplished; the example we have given foreign nations; and our determination that they shall be ‚Äî as ourselves ‚Äî free citizens, recognized as the equals of men.
– Alva Belmont, January 4, 1931
The iconic house is named after Alva Belmont, often noted for her intelligence and willingness to challenge convention was the former president of the National Women‚Äôs Party, and Alice Paul, the Party‚Äôs founder and principal strategist, the monument was originally acquired in 1929. The monument became a source of inspiration to women in the movement for women‚Äôs equality encouraging them to advocate for their rights. In the headquarters, women filled the room working to draft petitions and write letters, create flies and banners, organize and mobilize communities to achieve the rights of women. Paul lead the activist efforts in many ways, most notable is when she drafted an updated Equal Rights Amendment text, wrote provisions that were later included in the Civil Rights Act to prevent discrimination on the basis of gender, and worked to get women‚Äôs equality language incorporated in the United Nations Charter.
It is incredible to me that any woman should consider the fight for full equality won. It has just begun. There is hardly a field, economic or political, in which the natural and unaccustomed policy is not to ignore women‚Ä¶Unless women are prepared to fight politically they must be content to be ignored politically.
– Alice Paul, 1920
The women‚Äôs efforts did not stop at the end of the day, it went well into the night. Many women who worked in the movement often slept in the house the organization offered housing to their members. While many women spent a day or several nights, whereas others stayed for nearly their entire lives and considered themselves a family.
Today, the National Woman‚Äôs Party serves as an educational organization educating the public about the history of the monument and ongoing women‚Äôs rights equality movement. In this regard, the organization has been essential in helping the public to be inspired by women like Alice Paul and Alva Belmont.
The designation of the monument will also forever protect one of the oldest standing houses and help preserve a broad archival collection that documents the history and accomplishments of the movement to secure women‚Äôs suffrage and equal rights in the United States and around the world.
As far back as the early 1970s, and proposals in the last two decades to the site in the National Park System have garnered Congressional support by national and local elected officials, community leaders, women and girl organizations, conservation groups and historians.
In addition, President Obama has protected more land and water than any President in history, more than 265 million acres. President Obama continues to bring awareness and to protect culturally and historically significant places that tell the story of all Americans. As we pay homage to the women who granted all women the right to vote, this monument is a reminder that we stand on the shoulders of women who come before us.
-Danyelle R. Carter
Girl Museum Inc.