On Tuesday, President Obama spoke at the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Museum to commemorate Equal Pay Day.
Equal pay for equal work should be a fundamental principle of our economy. It’s the idea that whether you’re a high school teacher, a business executive, or a professional soccer player or tennis player, your work should be equally valued and rewarded, whether you are a man or a woman. […]
Today, the typical woman who works full-time earns 79 cents for every dollar that a typical man makes. And the gap is even wider for women of color. The typical black woman makes only 60 cents, a Latino woman 55 cents for every dollar that a white man earns. […]
I’m not here just to say we should close the wage gap. I’m here to say we will close the wage gap. […]
One of the interesting things, as I was just looking through some of the rooms — there was Susan B. Anthony’s desk. You had Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s chair. And you realize that those early suffragists had proceeded Alice Paul by a generation. They had passed away by the time that the vote was finally granted to women. And it makes you realize — and I say this to young people all the time — that this is not a sprint, this is a marathon. It’s not the actions of one person, one individual, but it is a collective effort, where each generation has its own duty, its own responsibility, its own role to fulfill in advancing the cause of our democracy.
The Sewall-Belmont House, part of the National Park Service, is now “America’s newest national monument — the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument”.
Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Museum
Washington, D.C., 11:35 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you. Thank you. Everybody, please, have a seat. Have a seat.
Well, hello, everybody. (Applause.) Thank you to Chitra for the introduction. It should be noted that today is Equal Pay Day, which means a woman has to work about this far into 2016 just to earn what a man earned in 2015. And what better place to commemorate this day than here at this house, where some of our country’s most important history took place, and where this history needs to inform the work that remains to be done.
I want to thank some of the leaders who’ve worked to keep the house standing. We’ve got members of Congress like Senator Barbara Mikulski, who’s fought to preserve this site for years and has been the longest-serving woman in the United States Senate. (Applause.) We are so proud of her. Our Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and her team, as we celebrate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service this year. (Applause.)
One of our greatest athletes of all time, one of the earliest advocates for equal pay for professional female athletes, and a heroine of mine when I was still young and fancied myself a tennis player — (laughter) — Billie Jean King is in the house. (Applause.) And the National Woman’s Party Board of Directors, Page Harrington, and the Executive Director of the House and the Museum. (Applause.) Over the years, Page and her staff have built a community and cared for this house, repairing every cracked pipe and patching every leaked roof. We are grateful for their stewardship. I know it was not easy.
Equal pay for equal work should be a fundamental principle of our economy. It’s the idea that whether you’re a high school teacher, a business executive, or a professional soccer player or tennis player, your work should be equally valued and rewarded, whether you are a man or a woman.
It’s a simple ideal. It’s a simple principle. It’s one that our Leader of the Democratic Caucus in the House, Nancy Pelosi, has been fighting for, for years. But it’s one where we still fall short. Today, the typical woman who works full-time earns 79 cents for every dollar that a typical man makes. And the gap is even wider for women of color. The typical black woman makes only 60 cents, a Latino woman 55 cents for every dollar that a white man earns. Now, if we truly value fairness, then America should be a level playing field where everyone who works hard gets a chance to succeed. And that’s good for America, because we don’t want some of our best players on the sidelines.
That’s why the first bill that I signed as President was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Earlier this year, on the anniversary of that day, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Labor acted to begin collecting annual data on pay by gender, race, and ethnicity. And this action will strengthen the enforcement of equal pay laws that are already on the books, and help employers address pay gaps on their own.
And to build on these efforts, Congress needs to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act to put sensible rules in place and make sure — (applause) — and make sure that employees who discuss their salaries don’t face retaliation by their employers.
But I’m not here just to say we should close the wage gap. I’m here to say we will close the wage gap. And if you don’t believe me, then — (applause) — if you don’t believe that we’re going to close our wage gap, you need to come visit this house, because this house has a story to tell. (Applause.)
This is the story of the National Women’s Party, whose members fought to have their voices heard. These women first organized in 1912, with little money but big hopes for equality for women all around the world. They wanted an equal say over their children, over their property, their earnings, their inheritance; equal rights to their citizenship and a say in their government; equal opportunities in schools, in universities, workplaces, public service, and, yes, equal pay for equal work. And they understood that the power of their voice in our democracy was the first step in achieving these broader goals.
Their leader, Alice Paul, was a brilliant community organizer and political strategist, and she recruited women and men from across the country to join their cause. And they began picketing seven days a week in front of the White House to demand their right to vote. They were mocked. They were derided. They were arrested. They were beaten. There were force-feedings during hunger strikes. And through all this, women, young and old, kept marching for suffrage, kept protesting for suffrage.
And in 1920, they won that right. We ratified the 19th Amendment. But the suffragists didn’t stop there. They moved into this historic house and they continued their work. From these rooms, steps away from the Capitol, they drafted speeches and letters and legislation. They pushed Congress and fought for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. They advocated for the inclusion of women in the U.N. Charter and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. They campaigned for women who were running for Congress.
This house became a hotbed of activism, a centerpiece for the struggle for equality, a monument to fight not just for women’s equality, but ultimately, for equality for everybody. Because one of the things we’ve learned is, is that the effort to make sure that everybody is treated fairly is connected.
And so, today, I’m very proud to designate it as America’s newest national monument — the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, right here in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
We do this to help tell the story of these suffragists. In these rooms, they pursued ideals which shouldn’t be relegated to the archives of history, shouldn’t be behind glass cases, because the story of their fighting is our story. I want young girls and boys to come here, 10, 20, 100 years from now, to know that women fought for equality, it was not just given to them. I want them to come here and be astonished that there was ever a time when women could not vote. I want them to be astonished that there was ever a time when women earned less than men for doing the same work. I want them to be astonished that there was ever a time when women were vastly outnumbered in the boardroom or in Congress, that there was ever a time when a woman had never sat in the Oval Office. (Applause.)
I don’t know how long it will take to get there, but I know we’re getting closer to that day, because of the work of generations of active, committed citizens. One of the interesting things, as I was just looking through some of the rooms — there was Susan B. Anthony’s desk. You had Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s chair. And you realize that those early suffragists had proceeded Alice Paul by a generation. They had passed away by the time that the vote was finally granted to women. And it makes you realize — and I say this to young people all the time — that this is not a sprint, this is a marathon. It’s not the actions of one person, one individual, but it is a collective effort, where each generation has its own duty, its own responsibility, its own role to fulfill in advancing the cause of our democracy.
That’s why we’re getting closer, because I know there’s a whole new generation of women and men who believe so deeply that we’ve got to close these gaps. I have faith because what this house shows us is that the story of America is a story of progress. And it will continue to be a story of progress as long as people are willing to keep pushing and keep organizing, and, yes, keep voting for people committed to this cause and to full equality for every American.
And so I’m hoping that a young generation will come here and draw inspiration from the efforts of people who came before them. After women won the right to vote, Alice Paul, who lived most of her life in this very house, said, “It is incredible to me that any woman should consider the right for full equality won. It has just begun.” And that’s the thing about America — we are never finished. We are a constant work in progress. And our future belongs to every free woman and man who takes up the hard work of citizenship, to win full equality and shape our own destiny.
That is the story that this house tells. It is now a national monument that young people will be inspired by for years to come. It would not have happened without the extraordinary efforts of many of the people in this room — not only their active support of this house and preserving it, but also the outstanding example that they are setting, that you are setting.
I’m very proud of you. Congratulations. Thank you very much, everybody. (Applause.)
11:45 A.M. EDT
Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell on the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Museum:
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell applauded President Obama’s announcement of the designation of the newly named Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, formerly the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, permanently protecting the site that became emblematic of the mission to advance women’s rights throughout the 20th century.
The announcement will be celebrated at a ceremony tomorrow at the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument with President Obama and Secretary Jewell on Equal Pay Day, the nationally recognized symbolic day in which a woman’s pay catches up to her male counterparts from the year prior. President Obama has made equal pay a top priority in his administration, taking a number of steps to fight for pay equity and annually recognizing through Equal Pay Day that women should earn wages equal to their male colleagues. President Obama and Secretary Jewell will be joined by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, executive director of the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum Page Harrington and local leaders.
“The Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument will honor and forever remind us of the risk, the work and the dedication of those who gathered in this house to fight for women’s equality. We must never forget their hard-fought struggle for the right to vote and equal rights for women under the law,” said Secretary Jewell. “This designation memorializes the efforts of the National Woman’s Party into a permanent piece of history, preserving the treasures of their work in these walls for the benefit of future generations. The timing could not be more symbolic as we mark National Equal Pay Day, an important reminder that women are still fighting for equality today.”
Additionally, businessman and philanthropist David M. Rubenstein has contributed $1 million dollars to the National Park Foundation’s Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks to repair and restore the building for future generations. This is Mr. Rubenstein’s fourth gift to the $350 million campaign, the largest fundraising effort in the Foundation’s history. Google has also announced that they are creating an Expedition, a virtual tour of the monument, to enable schools – no matter where they are – to tour this important historic landmark. Expeditions is a new product that allows teachers to take their classes on virtual field trips, immersing students in experiences that bring abstract concepts to life and giving students a deeper understanding of the world beyond the classroom.
Located on Capitol Hill, the Sewall-Belmont House – as the property has been known since its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1974 – contains a museum, library, and extensive collections and archives associated with the National Woman’s Party (NWP), its founder Alice Paul, and the mission to advance women’s suffrage and equal rights throughout the 20th century. From this house, Paul rewrote the Equal Rights Amendment, which became known as the “Alice Paul Amendment,” and led the fight for its passage in Congress. Paul and the NWP advocated tirelessly for women’s political, social, and economic equality, not just in the United States, but internationally.
The site will be managed by the National Park Service in cooperation with the National Women’s Party. Tomorrow’s designation follows a community meeting between Secretary Jewell, Director Jarvis, local officials, National Woman’s Party leaders and at least 200 community members to hear the public’s vision for the future management of the Belmont-Paul house.
“We are honored to be entrusted with the stewardship of Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument as the newest unit of the National Park System,” said National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis. “The National Woman’s Party and the National Park Service were both created in 1916. As we celebrate our centennial anniversary this year, we are dedicated to sharing this monument to women’s equality with future generations.”
“I am honored to be a part of helping to educate current and future generations of Americans about the sacrifices and achievements of so many brave people in the struggle for women’s rights and equality in the U.S.,” said David M. Rubenstein, Co-CEO of The Carlyle Group.
“From its inception, the national park system has benefited from private philanthropic support,” said Will Shafroth, president of the National Park Foundation, “Mr. Rubenstein continues this incredible tradition today by providing financial support to ensure that the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument is open and accessible to visitors to learn and appreciate the rich history of this place and the women who led the way for women’s equality.”
Efforts to protect the former Sewall Belmont House date back to the early 1970s, and more recently proposals to include the site in the National Park System have garnered Congressional support – including bipartisan legislation introduced by Senator Barbara Mikulski – as well as strong support from local elected officials, community leaders, women’s organizations, conservation groups and historians. The Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument becomes the 9th unit of the National Park System devoted to women’s history and an important part of the National Park Service’s efforts to tell the stories of women’s contributions to our Nation’s history and culture.
New additions to the National Park System can be accomplished by an act of Congress or by presidential designation. The first step in that process is frequently a National Park Service study, like the one completed last year for Belmont-Paul National Monument. In Congress, a bill can be introduced to designate an area as a national park unit. That bill must then be approved by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, then signed into law by the president.
A unit of the National Park System can also be created through the use of the Antiquities Act, which allows the president to designate a site as a national monument. Since the enactment of the Antiquities Act by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, 16 presidents have used the authority to protect unique natural and historic features in America, such as the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, Colorado’s Canyons of the Ancients and more than 140 national monuments. Later, Congress has often revisited these areas and re-designated them as national parks or other types of National Park System units. Almost half of the national parks in the National Park System today were first protected as national monuments under the Antiquities Act.
With today’s designation, President Obama will have used the Antiquities Act to establish or expand 23 national monuments. Altogether, he has protected more than 265 million acres of public lands and waters – more than any other President – as well as preserved sites that help tell the story of significant people or extraordinary events in American history, such as Cèsar E. Chàvez National Monument in California, Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in Maryland, and Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers National Monument in Ohio.
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