The National Woman’s Party (NWP) collection housed at the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum is an important resource for the study of the suffrage movement and the campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). This unique collection, including the nation’s first feminist library, documents the mass political movement for women’s full citizenship in the 20th century, both in the United States and throughout the world. The collection contains books, scrapbooks, political cartoons, textiles, photographs, organizational records, fine arts, decorative arts, and artifacts produced primarily by women, about women.
The extensive holdings outline the history of the militant wing of the women’s movement in the United States, documenting the strategies and tactics of the movement, demonstrating the use of visual images as effective publicity tactics in a pre-electronic age, and revealing the international work of the National Woman’s Party in its historic quest for complete equality for American women.
Highlights of the Collection:
• One of the first feminist libraries consisting of over 10,000 books, magazines, reference works, and archival holdings including:
- Over 2,000 books, magazines, and reference works, including early women’s magazines and suffrage journals, written by and about women from 1880 to present day
- Complete runs of the NWP publications, The Suffragist (1913-1921) and Equal Rights (1923-1954)
- 100 linear feet of NWP organizational records including telegrams and letters, congressional reports, reference materials, and budgetary items (the bulk of the collection is from 1935-1997)
- Approximately 3,000 Congressional Voting Cards produced by the NWP for lobbying (1915-1954)
- More than 50 scrapbooks created by NWP members detailing the suffrage and equal rights movements (1909-1960) through newspaper articles, speeches, letters, pamphlets, photographs and other printed materials
- Over 5,000 prints and photographs documenting NWP events and individual members, their participation in the suffrage movement, and their efforts to pass the Equal Rights Amendment; NWP international efforts including the formation of the World Woman’s Party; and NWP headquarters from 1913 to present day
• 200 original cartoon drawings created by artists including the NWP official cartoonist Nina Allender, as well as James Harrison Donahey, Hendrik Willem Van Loon, Marguerite B. Neale, Marietta Minnigerode Andrews, and others
• An unparalleled textile collection of over 1,400 banners, sashes, capes, ribbons, costumes, aprons, bonnets, and hats used by the NWP for parades, picketing the White House and equality demonstrations (1913-1970)
• Memorabilia consisting of approximately 75 artifacts that include an original jailhouse door pin presented to NWP members who were arrested in 1917; a gavel from the first meeting of the Woman’s Party in 1916; the key to District Prison where NWP suffragists were imprisoned for picketing the White House; and buttons used during the women’s equality campaigns of the twentieth century
• A collection of around 50 original wood printing blocks used in the publication of The Suffragist, Equal Rights, and various other NWP pamphlets and publications
• A fine arts collection comprised of approximately 60 paintings and sculptures of NWP leaders and other famous women throughout history including the busts of woman suffrage leaders Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony sculpted by Adelaide Johnson in 1909-1910
• Approximately 150 decorative arts pieces donated mostly by NWP members and including Susan B. Anthony’s desk, Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s chair, and the desk used by Alice Paul
• The National Woman’s Party Papers (1891-1974) are available on microfilm or through the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum’s newly digitized collection. The original papers are housed at the Library of Congress.
In 2008, the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum was awarded the Museums for America grant through the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS) for “Improving Collections Access.” The grant provided support for cataloging a cross-section of objects from the National Woman’s Party collection into a PastPerfect museum catalog, and the development of a metadata plan to guide cataloging efforts by all staff, interns, and volunteers. The goal of this project was to improve intellectual access to the museum’s rich collection of the 20th century women’s rights movement. Thanks in large part to this grant and the hard work of the museum staff and interns, the PastPerfect catalog contains over 5,000 items and is now available for research both onsite and online.
The Museum is offering the documents created through this grant to the public to facilitate a better understanding of the cataloging process. Please contact the collections staff if you have any questions or would like to know more about the work completed under this grant or other grants.
Testimonials from Scholars and Researchers:
“Without the availability of these resources, much of the . . . scholarly work on the history of American suffragism in the twentieth century would have not been possible. . . . While there are other archive and museums devoted to the history of American women, none is so clearly focused on the history of feminism as is Sewall Belmont. While women’s history reaches beyond feminism, it never survives very long without a consciousness rooted in concerns about women’s rights and women’s equality to drive it forward.”
–Dr. Ellen Carol Dubois, Ph.D., Professor of History, University of California, Los Angeles, 2010
“The archival holdings of the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum situate it at the center of feminist archives in the United States.”
–Dr. Kyle Kyle E. Ciani, Ph.D., Associate Professor of History, Women & Gender Studies, Illinois State University, 2010
“The long drive for women’s equality is not over, and this wonderful and easily accessible collection honoring historic American women and their inspiring accomplishments will help move that great effort forward.”
–Robert P.J. Cooney, Jr., Director, Woman Suffrage Media Project and author, Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement, 2005