Watch: President Obama Honors Alice Paul '05 in Dedication of Women's Equality National Monument
Update: Alice Paul '05, along with Swarthmore College founder Lucretia Mott, will be incorporated into the new design for the $10 bill, the Treasury Department announced on Wed., April 20, 2016. Read more at the New York Times.
President Obama paid homage Tuesday to those who had fought for women's equality, designating a historic house on Capitol Hill a national monument, and hinted that his successor could represent yet another victory for women's rights.
Speaking at the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, which has housed the National Woman's Party since 1929 and will now be called the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument, the president called the site "a hotbed of activism, a centerpiece for the struggle for equality, a monument to a fight not just for women's equality but, ultimately, for equality for everybody."
"I have faith because what this house shows us is that the story of America is a story of progress," Obama said before a crowd of women's activists that included tennis legend Billie Jean King and Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.).
"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," he said. "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."
The new designation honors both Alva Belmont, the National Woman's Party benefactor, and Alice Paul '05, who founded the party and served as its chief strategist. Obama made his announcement at the house, which served as the party's fifth headquarters, on Equal Pay Day, an annual commemoration that aims to highlight economic disparities between men and women. The date marks how many extra days a woman would have to work to make as much as a typical man would have made in the previous calendar year.
Although Paul is not well known, she played a pivotal role in the fight to win women's right to vote. She staged a 10-month picket at the White House to pressure President Woodrow Wilson on this issue: Sentenced to seven months in jail, Paul launched a hunger strike along with other activists to protest miserable prison conditions.
Paul skillfully played the harsh tactics of suffragists' opponents against them: When men — including some police officers — physically assaulted her group at a march during Wilson's 1913 inauguration, she described it later in a letter as “probably the best thing that could ever have happened to us” because “it aroused a great deal of public indignation and sympathy.”
Kristen Brengel, vice president of government affairs for the National Parks Conservation Association, said in an email that Paul's index card-based lobbying system, "where she recorded her notes on every member of Congress in great detail," serves as an inspiration for her own work in a totally different era.
"She was an incredible campaigner — deploying women all over the country to get their constituents to support the constitutional amendment," Brengel said.
Read the full article.
A New Jersey Quaker and pioneer in non-violent resistance, Alice Paul (1885-1977), Class of 1905, was the leader of the militant wing of the suffrage movement from 1913 to 1920. She founded the National Woman’s Party and organized pickets of Woodrow Wilson’s White House for women’s suffrage. Later, she wrote the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment submitted to Congress.
Paul’s Swarthmore connections predated her arrival on campus. Her grandfather, William Parry, shared a spade with fellow College founder Lucretia Mott to break ground for the planting of the first trees on campus. Her mother, Tacie Parry, was in the College’s first class of students in 1878 but left before graduating when she got married.
An effort to open a women's center on campus culminated in 1975; students named their new space in Bond Hall for Alice Paul. In the next decade, the center grew in popularity, moved to larger accommodations in a former fraternity house, and even hosted some of the events held during the College's two-week celebration of the 100th anniversary of Paul's birth. In the early 1990s, the center was renamed the Women's Resource Center. In 2005, Paul's name returned to campus on an award-winning residence hall.