A PROCLAMATION BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
The Sewall-Belmont House ( House ), located at 144 Constitution Avenue, Northeast, in Washington, D.C. a few steps from the U.S. Capitol has been home to the National Woman's Party ( NWP ) since 1929. From this House, the NWP's founder Alice Paul wrote new language in 1943 for the Equal Rights Amendment, which became known as the "Alice Paul Amendment," and led the fight for its passage in the Congress. From here, throughout the 20th century, Paul and the NWP drafted more than 600 pieces of legislation in support of equal rights and advocated tirelessly for women's political, social, and economic equality not just in the United States but also internationally.
While the House's role in women's history makes it a nationally significant resource, the building itself has an interesting past. Robert Sewall constructed the House on Jenkins Hill, known today as Capitol Hill, around 1800. Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin used the House during the Jefferson Administration, and the House was the site of the only resistance to the British invasion of Washington, D.C., during the War of 1812. In retaliation, the British set fire to the House, but by 1820, Sewall had rebuilt it. The House remained in the Sewall family until 1922, when it was acquired by Vermont Senator Porter Dale.
The NWP purchased the House in 1929 to serve as its headquarters. The NWP named it the "Alva Belmont House" in honor of its former president and major benefactor who had helped purchase the NWP's previous headquarters. A prominent suffragist herself, Belmont said of the new headquarters, "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 as ourselves free citizens, recognized as the equals of men." What is now called the Sewall-Belmont House became the staging ground for the NWP's advocacy for an equal rights amendment and other significant domestic and international action for women's equality.
Alice Paul, the women's suffrage and equal rights leader closely associated with the Sewall-Belmont House, led the NWP from its headquarters at the House from 1929 to 1972. A Quaker and well educated, before her work in the United States, Paul had been inspired by the women's suffrage movement in Britain in the early 20th century. During her years there from 1907 to 1910, she joined with Emmeline Pankhurst, her daughters, and other suffragettes to secure the vote for British women. Paul's participation in meetings, demonstrations, and depositions to Parliament led to multiple arrests, hunger strikes, and force-feedings.
Paul brought home her focus on women's suffrage when she returned to the United States in 1910. After earning a Ph.D. in economics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1912, she devoted herself to the American suffrage movement. She feared that the movement was waning at the national level because efforts had shifted to State suffrage. Paul believed that the movement needed to concentrate on the passage of a Federal suffrage amendment to the United States Constitution.
Paul became a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association ( NAWSA ) and by 1912 served as the chair of its Congressional Committee in Washington, D.C. In 1913, she and Lucy Burns created a larger organization, the Congressional Union of Woman Suffrage, which soon disagreed with NAWSA over tactics. The Congressional Union split from NAWSA in 1914 and evolved into the NWP through steps taken in 1916 and 1917.
Paul was the most prominent figure in the final phase of the battle for the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified in 1920, granting women the right to vote. As part of her strategy, she adopted the philosophy to "hold the party in power responsible" from her work on women's suffrage in Britain. The NWP withheld its support from the existing political parties until women gained the right to vote, and "punished" those parties in power that did not support suffrage. In 1913, the day before Woodrow Wilson's first inauguration, Paul organized a women's suffrage parade of more than 5,000 participants from every State in the Union. Through a series of dramatic nonviolent protests, the NWP demanded that President Wilson and the Congress address women's issues. The NWP organized "Silent Sentinels" to stand outside the White House holding banners inscribed with incendiary phrases directed toward President Wilson. The colorful, spirited suffrage marches, the suffrage songs, the violence the women faced as they were physically attacked and had their banners torn from their hands, the daily pickets and arrests at the White House, the recurring jail time, the hunger strikes which resulted in force-feedings and brutal prison conditions, the national speaking tours, and newspaper headlines all created enormous public support for suffrage.
Through most of the last century, the NWP remained a leading advocate of women's political, social, and economic equality. Following ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, the NWP, under the leadership of Alice Paul, turned its attention towards the larger issue of complete equality of men and women under the law. Paul reorganized the NWP in 1922 to focus on eliminating all discrimination against women. In 1923, at the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, the first women's rights convention, Paul proposed an equal rights amendment to the Constitution, which became known as the "Lucretia Mott Amendment," and launched the campaign to win full equality for women. In 1943, Alice Paul rewrote the amendment, which then became known as the "Alice Paul Amendment." What we now refer to as the "Equal Rights Amendment" was introduced in every session of Congress from 1923 until it finally passed in 1972, though it still has not been ratified by the required majority: three-fourths of the States.
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the NWP drafted more than 600 pieces of legislation in support of equal rights for women on the State and local levels, including bills covering divorce and custody rights, jury service, property rights, ability to enter into contracts, and the retention of one's maiden name after marriage. It launched two major "Women for Congress" campaigns in 1924 and 1926 and lobbied for the appointment of women to high Federal positions. The NWP also worked for Federal and State "blanket bills" to ensure women equal rights and helped change Federal laws to equalize nationality and citizenship laws for women. The NWP fought successfully for the repeal of a statute that prohibited Federal employees from working for the Federal Government if their spouses also were Federal employees. The NWP helped eliminate many of the sex discrimination clauses in the "codes of fair competition" established under the New Deal's National Recovery Administration, and assisted in the adoption of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Paul and the NWP also played a role in getting language protecting women included in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Alice Paul and the NWP did not limit their fight for women's rights to domestic arenas but also became active in international feminism as early as the 1920s. Among other actions, in 1938 Paul formed the World Woman's Party, which served as the NWP's international organization. It first assisted Jewish women fleeing the Holocaust and then became the NWP's office for promoting equal rights for women around the world. The NWP helped both Puerto Rican and Cuban women in seeking the vote, and in 1945 advocated successfully for the incorporation of language on women's equality in the United Nations Charter and for the establishment of a permanent United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
The political strategies and tactics of Alice Paul and the NWP became a blueprint for civil rights organizations and activities throughout the 20th century. In 1997, the NWP ceased to be a lobbying organization and became a non-profit, educational organization. Today, the House tells the story of a century of courageous activism by American women.
WHEREAS, section 320301 of title 54, United States Code ( known as the "Antiquities Act" ), authorizes the President, in the President's discretion, to declare by public proclamation historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be national monuments, and to reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected;
WHEREAS, in 1974, the Secretary of the Interior designated the Sewall-Belmont House a National Historic Landmark for its association with Alice Paul, the NWP, and the fight for equal rights, and later the same year the Congress enacted legislation creating the Sewall-Belmont House National Historic Site, an affiliated area of the National Park System;
WHEREAS, the National Park Service completed a study in November 2014, which recommended that the Sewall-Belmont House become a unit of the National Park System and operate through cooperative management between the National Park Service and the NWP;
WHEREAS, for the purpose of establishing a national monument to be administered by the National Park Service, the NWP has donated to the Federal Government fee title to the Sewall-Belmont House and the approximately 0.34 acres of land on which it is located;
WHEREAS, the National Park Service and the NWP agree that the NWP should continue to own and manage its collection, which includes an extensive library and archival and museum holdings relating to the women's movement, and the NWP has indicated its intention to enter into appropriate arrangements with the National Park Service that would further the preservation of the permanent collection at the Sewall-Belmont House and provide for cooperative interpretation and management activities with the National Park Service;
WHEREAS, it is in the public interest to preserve and protect the Sewall-Belmont House and the historic objects associated with it;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by the authority vested in me by section 320301 of title 54, United States Code, hereby proclaim the objects identified above that are situated upon lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government to be the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument ( monument ) and, for the purpose of protecting those objects, reserve as a part thereof all lands and interests in lands owned or controlled by the Federal Government within the boundaries described on the accompanying map, which is attached to and forms a part of this proclamation. The reserved Federal lands and interests in lands encompass approximately 0.34 acres. The boundaries described on the accompanying map are confined to the smallest area compatible with the proper care and management of the objects to be protected.
All Federal lands and interests in lands within the boundaries described on the accompanying map are hereby appropriated and withdrawn from all forms of entry, location, selection, sale, or other disposition under the public land laws, from location, entry, and patent under the mining laws, and from disposition under all laws relating to mineral and geothermal leasing.
The establishment of the monument is subject to valid existing rights.
The Secretary of the Interior ( Secretary ) shall manage the monument through the National Park Service, pursuant to applicable legal authorities, consistent with the purposes and provisions of this proclamation. The Secretary shall prepare a management plan, with full public involvement and in coordination with the NWP, within 3 years of the date of this proclamation. The management plan shall ensure that the monument fulfills the following purposes for the benefit of present and future generations: ( 1 ) to preserve and protect the objects of historic interest associated with the monument, and ( 2 ) to interpret the monument's objects, resources, and values related to the women's rights movement. The management plan shall, among other things, set forth the desired relationship of the monument to other related resources, programs, and organizations, both within and outside the National Park System.
The National Park Service is directed to use applicable authorities to seek to enter into agreements with others, and the NWP in particular, to address common interests and promote management efficiencies, including provision of visitor services, interpretation and education, establishment and care of museum collections, and preservation of historic objects.
Nothing in this proclamation shall be deemed to revoke any existing withdrawal, reservation, or appropriation; however, the monument shall be the dominant reservation.
Warning is hereby given to all unauthorized persons not to appropriate, injure, destroy, or remove any feature of this monument and not to locate or settle upon any of the lands thereof.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this
twelfth day of April, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.
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REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT ON EQUAL PAY DAY
Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Museum
11:35 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Everybody, please, have a seat. Have a seat.
Well, hello, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you to Chitra for the introduction. It should be noted that today is Equal Pay Day, which means a woman has to work about this far into 2016 just to earn what a man earned in 2015. And what better place to commemorate this day than here at this house, where some of our country's most important history took place, and where this history needs to inform the work that remains to be done.
I want to thank some of the leaders who've worked to keep the house standing. We've got members of Congress like Senator Barbara Mikulski, who's fought to preserve this site for years and has been the longest-serving woman in the United States Senate. (Applause.) We are so proud of her. Our Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and her team, as we celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service this year. (Applause.)
One of our greatest athletes of all time, one of the earliest advocates for equal pay for professional female athletes, and a heroine of mine when I was still young and fancied myself a tennis player — (laughter) — Billie Jean King is in the house. (Applause.) And the National Woman's Party Board of Directors, Page Harrington, and the Executive Director of the House and the Museum. (Applause.) Over the years, Page and her staff have built a community and cared for this house, repairing every cracked pipe and patching every leaked roof. We are grateful for their stewardship. I know it was not easy.
Equal pay for equal work should be a fundamental principle of our economy. It's the idea that whether you're a high school teacher, a business executive, or a professional soccer player or tennis player, your work should be equally valued and rewarded, whether you are a man or a woman.
It's a simple ideal. It's a simple principle. It's one that our Leader of the Democratic Caucus in the House, Nancy Pelosi, has been fighting for, for years. But it's one where we still fall short. Today, the typical woman who works full-time earns 79 cents for every dollar that a typical man makes. And the gap is even wider for women of color. The typical black woman makes only 60 cents, a Latino woman 55 cents for every dollar that a white man earns. Now, if we truly value fairness, then America should be a level playing field where everyone who works hard gets a chance to succeed. And that's good for America, because we don't want some of our best players on the sidelines.
That's why the first bill that I signed as President was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Earlier this year, on the anniversary of that day, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor acted to begin collecting annual data on pay by gender, race, and ethnicity. And this action will strengthen the enforcement of equal pay laws that are already on the books, and help employers address pay gaps on their own.
And to build on these efforts, Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to put sensible rules in place and make sure — (applause) — and make sure that employees who discuss their salaries don't face retaliation by their employers.
But I'm not here just to say we should close the wage gap. I'm here to say we will close the wage gap. And if you don't believe me, then — (applause) — if you don't believe that we're going to close our wage gap, you need to come visit this house, because this house has a story to tell. (Applause.)
This is the story of the National Women's Party, whose members fought to have their voices heard. These women first organized in 1912, with little money but big hopes for equality for women all around the world. They wanted an equal say over their children, over their property, their earnings, their inheritance; equal rights to their citizenship and a say in their government; equal opportunities in schools, in universities, workplaces, public service, and, yes, equal pay for equal work. And they understood that the power of their voice in our democracy was the first step in achieving these broader goals.
Their leader, Alice Paul, was a brilliant community organizer and political strategist, and she recruited women and men from across the country to join their cause. And they began picketing seven days a week in front of the White House to demand their right to vote. They were mocked. They were derided. They were arrested. They were beaten. There were force-feedings during hunger strikes. And through all this, women, young and old, kept marching for suffrage, kept protesting for suffrage.
And in 1920, they won that right. We ratified the 19th Amendment. But the suffragists didn't stop there. They moved into this historic house and they continued their work. From these rooms, steps away from the Capitol, they drafted speeches and letters and legislation. They pushed Congress and fought for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. They advocated for the inclusion of women in the U.N. Charter and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They campaigned for women who were running for Congress.
This house became a hotbed of activism, a centerpiece for the struggle for equality, a monument to fight not just for women's equality, but ultimately, for equality for everybody. Because one of the things we've learned is, is that the effort to make sure that everybody is treated fairly is connected.
And so, today, I'm very proud to designate it as America's newest national monument — the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument, right here in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
We do this to help tell the story of these suffragists. In these rooms, they pursued ideals which shouldn't be relegated to the archives of history, shouldn't be behind glass cases, because the story of their fighting is our story. I want young girls and boys to come here, 10, 20, 100 years from now, to know that women fought for equality, it was not just given to them. I want them to come here and be astonished that there was ever a time when women could not vote. I want them to be astonished that there was ever a time when women earned less than men for doing the same work. I want them to be astonished that there was ever a time when women were vastly outnumbered in the boardroom or in Congress, that there was ever a time when a woman had never sat in the Oval Office. (Applause.)
I don't know how long it will take to get there, but I know we're getting closer to that day, because of the work of generations of active, committed citizens. One of the interesting things, as I was just looking through some of the rooms — there was Susan B. Anthony's desk. You had Elizabeth Cady Stanton's chair. And you realize that those early suffragists had proceeded Alice Paul by a generation. They had passed away by the time that the vote was finally granted to women. And it makes you realize — and I say this to young people all the time — that this is not a sprint, this is a marathon. It's not the actions of one person, one individual, but it is a collective effort, where each generation has its own duty, its own responsibility, its own role to fulfill in advancing the cause of our democracy.
That's why we're getting closer, because I know there's a whole new generation of women and men who believe so deeply that we've got to close these gaps. I have faith because what this house shows us is that the story of America is a story of progress. And it will continue to be a story of progress as long as people are willing to keep pushing and keep organizing, and, yes, keep voting for people committed to this cause and to full equality for every American.
And so I'm hoping that a young generation will come here and draw inspiration from the efforts of people who came before them. After women won the right to vote, Alice Paul, who lived most of her life in this very house, said, "It is incredible to me that any woman should consider the right for full equality won. It has just begun." And that's the thing about America — we are never finished. We are a constant work in progress. And our future belongs to every free woman and man who takes up the hard work of citizenship, to win full equality and shape our own destiny.
That is the story that this house tells. It is now a national monument that young people will be inspired by for years to come. It would not have happened without the extraordinary efforts of many of the people in this room — not only their active support of this house and preserving it, but also the outstanding example that they are setting, that you are setting.
I'm very proud of you. Congratulations. Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)