TwHP Lessons

A Woman’s Place Is In the Sewall-Belmont House: Alice Paul and Women’s Rights


Alice Paul, the ERA, and the Sewall Belmont House; courtesy of the Library of Congress and National Archives and Records Administration
(Images courtesy of the Library of Congress and the National Archives and Records Administration)
I

n 1929, the restless leaders of the National Woman's Party bought a house on Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC, to be their new headquarters. Over a decade had passed since its members picketed the White House and went to prison for their political activism, and nearly a decade since they persuaded Americans to care about women's suffrage. While many of the suffrage veterans thought the war was won, its founder Alice Paul did not rest. For her, the fight for the 19th Amendment was just the first battle in a longer struggle.

Dedicated to erasing discriminatory laws that she believed kept women from being free and equal citizens, Paul lived at the strategic headquarters of the organization she started. Paul and the NWP lobbied Congress to support federal legislation like the first proposed Equal Rights Amendment, which Paul drafted in 1921. She never saw the ERA realized, as it was never ratified by the necessary number of states. But the legacy of her fierce determination can be found in the 19th Amendment, the United Nations Charter, and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Tucked among federal office buildings, the U.S. Supreme Court, and the U.S. Capitol, the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, home of the National Woman's Party, stands today in the center of American government as a women's history museum, archive, and monument.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
  1. Map 1: National Woman’s Party in Washington, DC

Determining the Facts: Readings

  1. Reading 1: Alice Paul and Women’s Suffrage
  2. Reading 2: The ERA and a new home on Capitol Hill
  3. Reading 3: Listening to History: "It Was All So Breathless"
  4. Reading 4: “Mrs. Wiley is Guest of Honor”

Visual Evidence: Images
  1. 144 Constitution Ave, NE
  2. Lobbying Congress for the ERA
  3. Inside the Alva Belmont House (1941)
  4. Second Floor Plan, Sewall-Belmont House
  5. Alice Paul Author of the ERA poster

Putting It All Together: Activities
  1. Organizations for Reform
  2. The 20th Century Woman
  3. Beyond the Voting Booth
  4. Histories of Liberties

Supplementary Resources

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Sewall-Belmont House & Museum


This lesson is based on the Sewall-Belmont House National Historic Landmark in Washington, DC. This building is among the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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