Get Inspired by Women’s History in the Nation’s Capital
By the time the AAUW National Convention returns to Washington, D.C. in June 2017, a new president and administration will be in the White House, the new National Museum for African American History and Culture will be on the National Mall, and AAUW will have spent a year in its new headquarters!
While the District has undergone many changes since it last hosted a convention in 2011, D.C. remains a hub for cultural enrichment. And if you look carefully, many sites recognize the hardships and achievements of women throughout history. As you plan your D.C. trip, consider allotting time to visit and be inspired by the extraordinary efforts of the women immortalized in these sites.
In his designation of the site as a national monument in April 2016, President Obama called the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum “a centerpiece for the struggle for equality.” Now known as the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, the house has served as home to the National Woman’s Party for more than 90 years. Here in the shadows of the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court, Ava Belmont and Alice Paul — the monument’s namesakes — and other women strategized to lobby for passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote.AAUW member Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor’s bronze statue within the eight-acre tribute honors her influence as first lady and as one of the first U.S. delegates to the United Nations.
A short distance from the two-acre wall of names honoring those U.S. service members who lost their lives in the Vietnam War is a statue of three uniformed women tending to a wounded soldier. Erected in dedication to the women who served in Vietnam — many of whom were nurses — the Vietnam Women’s Memorial reminds us of the importance of women during times of conflict.
In Lincoln Park, the largest park in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, is a bronze statue honoring Mary Mcleod Bethune, founder of the National Council of Negro Women. Bethune, an educator and activist, dedicated herself to advancing the lives of African American women. Her monument was the first built on D.C. public land that honored an African American and a woman.
Located beside Constitution Hall, Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s sculpture features four medallions honoring the founders of the Daughters of the American Revolution: Mary Desha, Mary Smith Lockwood, Ellen Hardin Walworth, and Eugenia Washington. Commemorated in marble, the sculpture’s female figure wears flowing drapery and outstretches her arms to symbolize American womanhood.
Mary Church Terrell was one of the first African American women to earn a college degree. She attended Oberlin College, receiving her bachelor’s degree in 1884 and her master’s degree in 1888. Terrell went on to become a teacher and principal in D.C., president of the National Association of Colored Women (now the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs), and a founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. She ushered in the desegregation of AAUW after she was invited to join the AAUW Washington (DC) Branch in 1946.