We are excited to launch a new biweekly blog series called “Meet a Member.” AASLH has 5,500 fascinating members working hard for the field of history, and we want to show them off. We will feature one organization and one individual each month.
Sewall-Belmont House & Museum
Member of AASLH since 2007
The Sewall-Belmont House & Museum on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. is a women’s history museum owned and interpreted by the historic National Woman’s Party, a leader in the twentieth century campaigns for suffrage and equal rights for women. The Museum, located in the historic headquarters of the National Woman’s Party, preserves the legacy of its members and their tireless efforts to win suffrage and advance equal rights. It is committed to preserving for the community a premier collection of banners, periodicals, photographs and more, and providing resources and support towards the ongoing effort to elevate women’s history.
When and why was the museum established?
The Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage founded the Woman’s Party in 1916, and later merged the two groups to form the National Woman’s Party (NWP) in 1917. The organization was formed to continue the Congressional Union’s trailblazing lobbying efforts to win woman suffrage via a federal amendment to the Constitution. Members of the National Woman’s Party braved severe weather and angry crowds to picket the White House, demanding democracy and liberty for American women.
After suffrage was won in 1920 through the nineteenth amendment, the National Woman’s Party turned their attention to the attainment of total legal equality for women. This included working for numerous pieces of equality legislation and lobbying extensively for an Equal Rights Amendment.
In 1997, the National Woman’s Party officially transitioned to a 501(c)3 educational organization, and today functions as a Museum dedicated to preserving the collection and educating the public about the incredible activism of American women.
Tell us about your staff and volunteers.
Currently, the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum has a core staff of four as well as a roster of part-time Museum Assistants. The Museum is led by a Board of Directors comprised of seventeen members who are each active leaders in their fields and in the community. Currently, a small number of volunteers provide research support to the Museum. The Museum also benefits from the talents of several dedicated consultants, a regular Collections Intern, and a maintenance staff person.
What does an AASLH membership mean for your museum? How has the museum benefited from AASLH membership?
AASLH membership provides valuable resources, professional development, and community/partnership-building opportunities for our staff and institution that help us to advance our mission of preserving and sharing untold women’s stories for the benefit of our local, national, and international communities.
Why is history important to your museum?
History and its enduring importance and relevance—in schools, in communities, and online—is at the core of what we do. In particular, we are committed to raising the profile and widening the reach of women’s history and women’s history sites in order to create a richer and more inclusive history that recognizes women’s extraordinary and continuing contributions.
We find that many visitors to our site are unfamiliar with the long and grueling campaign that American women sustained in order to win the right to vote. We strive to make this history more widely known and appreciated.
What is happening or upcoming at your institution?
We will wrap up 2015 with a Holiday Open House where we will share special collection items, and open the Museum to self-guided tours.
In 2016, we will mark the centennial of the organization’s founding, and are currently in the process of developing programs, exhibits, and social media initiatives to recognize the strategic and committed organizing that took place 100 years ago when the Woman’s Party officially formed.
Upcoming highlights include our Women’s History Month celebrations and new exhibit opening in March 2016; our continuing partnerships with individuals and organizations including private collector, Ann Lewis, and the Kettering Foundation; and our upcoming social media campaign to highlight key anniversaries and milestones of the National Woman’s Party.
Is there anything else you would like to share about your institution?
We are currently working towards a number of exciting projects that will increase the visibility of women’s history and augment public access to our collection.
In 2020, we will celebrate the centennial of the passage of the nineteenth amendment granting American women the right to vote. In collaboration with other women’s history institutions and scholars, we are working to develop networks, resources, and programs to reinvigorate this history and celebrate this anniversary on a national scale.
We are also continuing to explore and share our collection and archive through digitization, social media, and our blog. These projects help us to highlight unknown women’s stories and to share more of our immense collection of textiles, periodicals, scrapbooks, lobbying records and more.
We also hope to continue our efforts to bring more women’s history into the classroom by working with school teachers and educators to explore resources and methods for teaching and igniting interest in women’s history. We will continue to partner with organizations offering professional development to educators, and to further develop our own educational resources.
These answers by Page Harrington, Executive Director of the Museum, were edited for length and clarity. Want to be featured? Email Hannah Hethmon for more information. Click here to read about more featured members. Not a member? Click here to learn more about the benefits of an AASLH membership.