The epicenter of the women's voting rights fight - the Sewall-Belmont House adjacent to the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. - is now a national monument, the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument, thanks to President Obama. On April 4, hundreds of our fellow citizens voiced support to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell and National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis, asking for the designation to be made. President Obama listened to the local community's request to preserve this historic site and used his authority under the Antiquities Act to protect it for future generations.
From 1970-1993 I lived in the D.C. area where the Sewall-Belmont House was the site of many women's rights meetings, a vibrant center of education and social change. Decades earlier it served as headquarters of the National Woman's Party where Alice Paul and many other leaders spent decades organizing the marches, hunger strikes, speaking tours and other activities that led to the 19th Amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote in 1920.
The House has rich historic, cultural, political, economic and educational significance. It contains the most complete collection of national women's suffrage and equal rights movement artifacts like letters, banners, sashes, newsletters, lobbying cards and more. These are American treasures that help tell the story of women in America. This story deserves to be honored and preserved by the National Park Service. Just 8 out of more than 400 national park sites (not including Sewall-Belmont) have been established specifically to commemorate women's history. Protecting this site helps ensure that our parks and other protected public lands can teach us how women have shaped our country and fought for equal rights, and inspire future generations of female leaders.
The Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument is widely recognized as an important piece of American history. Along with the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Star Spangled Banner, the House was one of the Save America's Treasures' first four official National Treasures.
For years there has been strong bipartisan support for National Park System designation for the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument. The current bill to do so is co-sponsored by Democratic Senator Barbara Mikulski and Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito, and is supported by more than two-thirds of all current female Senators.
I came to the Washington Metro area after completing my Peace Corps service in Northeastern Brazil, where I discovered the hardships women face. And later I had the opportunity to chair commissions on the status of women, serve as part of the "New Girls' Network" during the Carter Administration, become a member of the U.S. delegation to the U.N. Population and Development Conference in Cairo, Egypt, and continue to work on women's rights in the private and public sectors. The Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument became a point for celebrating, organizing and planning. I still have an Alice Paul tee shirt and am often reminded of women leaders who worked with me like former U.S. Rep. Bella Abzug, Marian Wright Edelman, and Frances Spivy Weber. We still aspire to carry the legacy of Alice Paul, and so many others as we fight for the rights of women and children in the United States and around the world. I strongly applaud the effort to create the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument so that this uniquely American story can be properly preserved and retold for many generations to come.