There’s always a place for politics in this town. And there are some specific sites if you’re looking for the history of women in the Democratic and Republican parties.
The national club for Democratic women and the headquarters for Republican women’s clubs are in the District and Alexandria, respectively. Both are on the National Register of Historic Places, but the similarity ends there.
The National Federation of Republican Women is headquarters for 1,369 chapters; the stand-alone Democratic club hosts many events and is a museum.
1526 New Hampshire Ave. NW
As first lady, Eleanor Roosevelt broadcast national radio addresses from the Woman’s National Democratic Club, which she joined in 1923, a year after it was founded. The charter arrived two years after the 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote in 1920.
In 1927 the group bought its current home, the Whittemore mansion, which was built in the 1890s near Dupont Circle for a descendant of President John Adams, Sarah Adams Whittemore, and her husband. Over the years, the club filled the house with political memorabilia, fine art and antiques, some donated by cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post and other members.
A hotel that was closing donated seven large folk art paintings of Democratic first ladies. A sparkling chandelier once hung in a hotel in Paris. Memorabilia from Roosevelt’s White House days are on display in the Eleanor Roosevelt Library, including the desk of club member Frances Perkins. She was America’s first female Cabinet member, serving as secretary of labor in the Franklin Roosevelt administration.
The club regularly hosts events such as book readings, speeches by presidential candidates and weddings.
Current president Anna Fierst is Eleanor Roosevelt’s great-granddaughter. “It’s wonderful that my great-grandmother’s human rights contributions are honored here,” she says. “But what the founding members wanted, and what Eleanor supported, was getting women involved in the political process. In the 1920s, they challenged women to vote according to their own ideals, not their husband’s.”
124 N. Alfred St., Alexandria, Va.
A large framed collection of 88 elephant pins demands visitors’ attention when they enter the headquarters of the National Federation of Republican Women in Alexandria. Unlike the WNDC, the federation initiates and directs political leadership, education and get-out-the-vote efforts.
For programming, members count on their local clubs. Virginia has 59, Maryland has 29, and the District, 1.
The three-story building was built in the early 1800s as a private home for a prosperous doctor. Visitors are welcome, but like any good guests, they should call ahead.
The group, founded in 1938, had been based in the Republican National Committee building on Capitol Hill for almost 50 years. The federation’s president announced the need for a permanent headquarters in 1989. The organization moved in 1992, and after just one year, it had paid the mortgage on the Alexandria home in full with contributions from state and local chapters.
President Carrie Almondhas family roots in the party. Her grandmother Rosemary Lucas Ginn served as the RNC committeewoman from Missouri and was appointed ambassador to Luxembourg by President Gerald Ford.
“There are 23 million women in this country that are qualified but not registered to vote,” Almond says. “We purchased an RV and christened it Rosie, after my grandmother, to travel around the country increasing registration and getting out the vote.” ■