Theta Connections: A New National Monument

Category: Heritage

Noraleen Duvall Young

Alpha Chi, Purdue

On April 12, 2016, the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum in Washington D.C. was designated a National Monument. To be known as the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, it served as the headquarters for the National Woman’s Party (NWP), instrumental in gaining women the right to vote in 1920. Two of Theta’s leading women, Mary Ritter Beard and Betty Gram Swing, were active in the NWP.

The National Woman’s Party grew out of a division among members of the women’s suffrage movement. Originally established as the Congressional Union and organized by Alice Paul and Lucy Burns, the NWP focus was gaining women’s suffrage at the national level.

Mary Ritter Beard, Alpha/DePauw, was active with the NWP from its beginnings as the Congressional Union. She was among members who testified at Congressional hearings in support of women’s suffrage. Beyond her work with the suffrage movement, she was a noted women’s historian. Check out the 2005 Theta magazine article and 2013 blog post about her.

Betty Gram Swing
Alpha Xi/Oregon

Betty Gram Swing, Alpha Xi/Oregon, was also an active member of the NWP. She was among the party members who picketed the White House and was among those arrested on what many considered made-up charges. A hunger strike followed, and many, including Betty, were force-fed. Check out the 2008 article about her and her sister, Alice, also an Alpha Xi/Oregon member. Betty traveled to individual states for the NWP to campaign for ratification of the 19th Amendment. After ratification, Betty’s interests moved to the international level, working within the NWP and their efforts for an international equal rights treaty.

For a timeline on the NWP, visit the Library of Congress, which also has many photographs related to the NWP.