Laura Bush greets Burmese democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi at the Congressional Gold Medal ceremony at the Capitol Wednesday afternoon. (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

Laura Bush got a hero’s welcome at the Sewall-Belmont’s Alice Award gala Wednesday — a very subtle, ladylike way of answering her detractors.

In June, the women’s rights museum announced that Bush would be this year’s recipient of the prize named for suffragette Alice Paul. Her selection drew fire from feminists who argued that the former first lady hadn’t been a strong advocate for American women. The predictable flap ensued, drawing indignant response from fans citing her extensive global work, especially in Afghanistan.

Laura Bush accepting the Alice Award at the Sewall-Belmont House Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012. (Katarina Price Photography)

The timing couldn’t have been better for Bush: She arrived at the luncheon from a meeting with Nobel Peace laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, whom she joined again later in the day when the Burmese pro-democracy activist received the Congressional Gold Medal at the Capitol.

Sewall-Belmont president Dianne Chasen Lipsey praised Bush for her “quiet modesty” in working for women and human rights; Interior Secretary Ken Salazar lauded her as a champion of historic preservation and national parks.

Bush never mentioned the protest. Instead, she deftly delivered her response by name-dropping Suu Kyi.

“Just a couple of hours ago, I had the wonderful pleasure of finally meeting Aung San Suu Kyi face-to-face,” Bush told the crowd. “I asked her what I should say to you today and she said for me to tell you . . . it’s so important for all of us, as women, to support each other.”

Well played.

Read earlier: Sewall-Belmont House supporters split over award for Laura Bush, 6/18/12

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