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26.6.04

Sewall-Belmont House

For my inauguration to Ionarts I thought I would begin by highlighting some of the forgotten treasures here in our nation's capital - the wealth of small museums and historical sites which help "keep the magic alive" to those of us constantly bombarded by the beltway blues.

One of the most impressive is the Sewall-Belmont House, which I visited for the first time a few weeks ago. Located on Constitution Avenue and 2nd Street NE, near the Supreme Court Building, the Sewall-Belmont House became the headquarters of the National Women's Party in 1929 and today is dedicated to the history of women's suffrage. The house was also the home of the movement's leader, Alice Paul, who guided women's suffrage into the 20th century. Paul realized that in order for the movement to be successful it needed closer access to Congress and the White House.

The photo above, from the Library of Congress and taken in 1913, shows one of the numerous suffragette parades which marched down Pennsylvania Avenue between 1910 and 1920, when the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote was finally ratified on August 26th.

The subject of women’s suffrage is something close to this blogger’s heart as my Grandmother and Great-Grandmother were both suffragettes in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I also teach on the subject of women and art and found the Sewall-Belmont House an endless source of inspiration and fascination.

Among the many artifacts and works of art commemorating its history, visitors can see the desk of Susan B. Anthony as well as copies of the controversial marble busts of women's rights leaders Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton by feminist sculptor Adelaide Johnson. Mockingly called “Three Women in a Bathtub” by its critics, this women's suffrage memorial was commissioned by the National Woman's Party and was the earliest sculpture of women to be included in the U.S. Capitol Collection. The next time you’re bored by the lines at the Supreme Court building, walk around the corner and check out the brick treasure that is the Sewall-Belmont House.

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