The National Monument We Always Wanted

by Stephanie Casella

In a move forward for gender equality, President Obama will designate a national monument to women in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday. He is naming the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum — a historic house in D.C. that has housed the National Women's Party since 1929 — the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument. The name is intended to honor Alva Belmont and Alice Paul, the former of whom was a benefactor of the National Women's Party, and the latter of whom founded it and was its chief strategist. President Obama's remarks are to take place on Equal Pay Day, a commemorative day created to illuminate economic disparities between men and women.

The date of the observance is intentional, as April 12 indicates how many additional days from the start of the New Year an average woman would need to work to earn as much as her average male counterpart in the previous calendar year. According to the White House's data from 2014, a typical American woman working full-time earned only 79 cents for every dollar a typical American man earned.

President Obama has designated nearly two dozen monuments, encompassing nearly 265 million acres of U.S. land and water, in an effort to recognize the diverse parts of America's past. Some of his previous designations have commemorated Native American, African American, Asian American, and Latino history, though only two thus far have celebrated women's history. Those two, however, are the only two national monuments dedicated women. The first, designated in 2013, recognized Harriet Tubman.

The monument also accompanies three national parks dedicated to women's history, though the parks are approved Congressionally.

The Sewall-Belmont House and Museum was purchased in 1929 by suffragist Alice Paul. Until 1997, it remained the National Women's Party headquarters. At that point, the party then became an educational organization, and they turned the house into a museum.

Within the house is a collection of artifacts from the suffrage era and American women's history as a whole. The National Women's Party will continue to preserve and curate the collection, and the designation of the house as a national monument means it will receive proper funding for its upkeep.

The designation of the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum — soon to become the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument — is a vitally important step forward in public awareness of women's issues. This is something women for which around the nation will truly remember President Obama.