You Need to Know About this DC Monument

Just half a mile from Union Station is a monument and museum dedicated to the National Women’s Party and women’s equality movement. The Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument operated by the National Parks Service, is a 200-year-old house containing over 250 artifacts from the National Women’s Party. I first found out about the monument from a women’s history class I took last semester where I had to visit for an assignment; I visited again this past weekend to get some more in-depth information about it.

As I walked in from a staircase on the street, a Park Ranger welcomed me, handed me a brochure, and said he would be there to answer any questions I had. I had the option to join a tour, but I had done one before, so I decided to explore the museumalone this time. The tour itself starts with an informational video, then a Park Ranger leads you around most of the house.

Exiting from the lobby where the video is, I entered a hallway with four entryways to rooms. Banners hang from the walls from the suffrage movement; “THE YOUNG ARE AT THE GATES,” reads one. I could see their age, making the movement less of a history lesson and more real to me. The rooms each contain different artifacts including furniture belonging to Alice Paul and other suffragists, protest equipment, and dozens more. One room is a small gift shop with cute souvenirs that help the National Parks Service.

After exploring the rooms on the first floor, I headed upstairs to another few rooms. These rooms served as bedrooms and living spaces for suffragists as a second home when they needed to stay in Washington for work. Visitors will find more furniture, interactive exhibits, documents from suffragists to various leaders, and some more modern artifacts.

One of my personal favorite parts is the numerous mirrors in the monument to take pictures in with short mantras written across them. One that I found particularly impactful reads, “I stand on the shoulders of the women before me."

The house is never crowded, which allows for as much time as you need to take in all the exhibits without being rushed. And trust me, you’ll want to take in everything. Simply being in the house where so many suffragists worked to progress women’s rights feels inspiring. 

The National Women’s Party bought the house near the Capitol in 1929. Their main work there was in pushing to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, to gain women’s equality in more than suffrage. This amendment has still not been ratified, however the NWP was able to gain gender equality language in the United Nations Charter and the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The NWP still exists today, focusing on educating people on the continuing women’s rights movement.

The house was made into a museum in 1997 when the NWP’s focus switched to education and was designated a national monument in 2016 by the Obama Administration as America’s first national monument to women’s history.

The monument is closed Monday and Tuesday but open every other day of the week from 9a.m. to 5p.m.

 

Photo credit: Marissa Parisi