Editor’s Note: This blog post was written by Vision 2020 Maryland Delegate, Kate Campbell Stevenson and was first published by our Regional Ally, the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, in Washington, D.C.
Fifteen years ago, I experienced a personal seismic shift as I first entered the Sewall Belmont House & Museum. How could I not have known about the National Woman’s Party? Raised in an educated Midwestern family of community activists, I was incensed that the early 20th Century suffragists’ stories were not included in my school history books! As I climbed the Sewall-Belmont winding staircase that day the portraits of Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and Inez Milholland shouted to my spirit to learn more about their mission. It was a true awakening. Those brave women’s voices, whose protest banners silently screamed for Women’s Equality in 1917, continue to call out to us today to complete their mission. We’ve made progress –but are STILL fighting for fair pay, equal access, and control over our own bodies.
In 1920, as women won the vote nation wide, Alice Paul realized that victory was just the first step in the struggle to reach full equality. She went back to school for her law degree knowing that the women’s equality battle would be fought in the Courts and in Congress – as Lily Ledbetter, and many other women today know only too well.
Enjoying the ease of modern day computers and cell phones, I am inspired by the NWP’s creative visual rhetoric so aptly recorded through historic banners, the Allender Political Cartoons and the Congressional Voting Card Index displayed at the Sewall Belmont House & Museum. I can hear the echo of the NWP members’ determined voices working the front room phone banks lobbying Congress to support their equal rights legislation. Today, I proudly display a copy of one of the restored Allender Cartoons in my home. It serves as a daily reminder to me to use my voice and my actions to continue to speak up for women’s full equality and to encourage women everywhere to make their voices heard AND TO VOTE.
Listen -and you can hear the suffragists calling out for you to take action. Refuse to be part of the silent majority! Study the issues. Find your voice. Speak out often, encourage others, and VOTE!