History of the House

Photo of the interior of Belmont-Paul
Interior of the entryway to the house.

National Woman's Party

 

Tucked behind the U.S. Capitol, this 200-year-old house stands as a testament to our nation's continued struggle for equality. Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument tells the story of a community of women who dedicated their lives to the fight for women’s rights. The innovative tactics and strategies these women devised became the blueprint for civil rights progress throughout the 20th century.

History of the House

Built on Capitol Hill in 1800, the house that today is Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument is among the oldest residential properties in Washington, D.C. The original house was destroyed by British forces during the War of 1812. In the 20th century, the house became the headquarters of the National Woman’s Party, a political movement that fought for equal rights for women.

Robert Sewall, a member of one of Maryland’s most influential and prominent families, built the original house at 2nd Street and Constitution Avenue, NE in 1800. Sewall rented the house to Albert Gallatin from 1801 until 1813. Gallatin served as Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Jefferson and Madison. During the War of 1812, the house was destroyed by fire during the British invasion of Washington in August 1814. It was one of the only buildings from which the occupants made an attempt to resist the British Army. Sewall rebuilt the house by 1820.

The Sewall family descendants owned the house for over 120 years. In 1922, Senator and Mrs. Porter Dale of Vermont purchased and rehabilitated the house after it had been vacant for a decade.

The Dales sold the house to the National Woman’s Party (NWP) to use as their headquarters in 1929. The NWP renamed the property the “Alva Belmont House” in honor of Alva Belmont, NWP President from 1920-1933 and its primary benefactor. Belmont donated thousands of dollars to the women’s equality movement and gave the NWP the ability to purchase the new headquarters. The house also functioned as a hotel and second home for some members up until the 1990s.

National Woman's Party

Alice Paul founded the NWP in 1916 to address women’s suffrage and equality. Under Paul’s leadership, the NWP refocused the women’s suffrage movement from a state-by-state effort to a push for a constitutional amendment. In 1923, the NWP introduced the Equal Rights Amendment and launched a campaign to win full equality for women. They successfully pushed for the inclusion of gender equality language in both the United Nations Charter and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In 1997, the NWP ceased lobbying activities and became a 501(c)3 educational organization. Today, the NWP focuses on educating the public about the women's rights movement.

Last updated: October 29, 2016

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