Sewall-Belmont House

Putting ladies first more than a century

August 30, 2012

The Congressional Voting Card Index had entries on congressmen’s voting records, families, hobbies and reactions when confronted by pro-suffrage lobbyists.

It’s been fewer than 100 years since American women gained the right to vote. That’s what the National Woman’s Party, headquartered here since 1929, wants you to remember. The NWP championed women’s suffrage (achieved) and the Equal Rights Amendment (not achieved). Its arsenal: protest, pageantry and shrewd lobbying. Now the organization runs this museum, an invigorating walk through 20th-century women’s rights.

You’ll learn a lot here about Alice Paul, longtime leader of the NWP. In 1923, she wrote the ERA, after a long battle for women’s suffrage during which she planned parades, picketed the White House and went to prison. Examples from the NWP’s Congressional Voting Card Index show Paul’s lobbying machine at work. The staff filled the cards with details about congressmen’s lives, and used the info to tailor lobbying tactics.

Did You Know?

The NWP was the first political organization to picket the White House, beginning in January 1917. By June, authorities were arresting protesters for obstructing traffic.

The Congressional Voting Card Index included cards on congressmen’s moms. “If we can make her a strong advocate for suffrage, we have the best chance of winning the son,” an NWP lobbyist said in 1919.

The 19th Amendment was ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, when a member of Tennessee’s House of Representatives changed his mind and broke a tie. He’d just received a pro-suffrage letter from his mom.

Sewall-Belmont House, 144 Constitution Ave. NE; 202-546-1210. (Union Station)

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