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New U.S. National Monument Honors Women's Equality Fight

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Today, in marking Equal Pay Day, President Obama also designated a new historic site, the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument. It's a house on Capitol Hill that's been the home of the National Woman's Party since 1929. Today, the group advocates for gender equality. And here's what President Obama had to say about the women who worked and lived here.

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BARACK OBAMA: 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 and universities, workplaces, public service and yes, equal pay for equal work.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

The two women whose names now grace the house are Alva Belmont and Alice Paul. That's Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, a well-known socialite who used money from a divorce to bankroll the Woman's National Party, and Alice Paul, who was the party's mastermind and founder.

SIEGEL: Paul was a radical figure in her day. She earned a PhD in economics and later moved to England, where she got involved with the militant wing of the women's suffrage movement there. After returning to the U.S. in 1913, she picketed the White House, was arrested, even went on hunger strike. Jennifer Krafchik manages the collection of documents and artifacts at the Belmont-Paul National Monument.

JENNIFER KRAFCHIK: She was really in the thick of the fight. And when women were granted the right to vote in 1920, Alice Paul actually drafted the original Equal Rights Amendment and its updated text later in the '40s. So she spent her entire life, really, working for women's rights, women's equality. She worked for equal pay. She worked for the right for women to serve on juries. So just a really amazing woman.

SHAPIRO: This is a legacy President Obama hopes visitors will take with them as they come and go.

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OBAMA: 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.

SIEGEL: President Obama at the dedication of the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument on Capitol Hill today. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.