Tags: Public Lands
On Monday, April 4th, the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum hosted a public meeting to discuss the site’s potential inclusion in the National Park System. U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and Councilmember Charles Allen attended the meeting. Representatives from U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski’s office, District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser’s office, and Councilmember David Grosso’s office attended the meeting and provided public comments in favor of the inclusion.
Today, the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum highlights the historic importance of the site and the National Woman’s Party to the women’s equality movement and their role in activism on Capitol Hill. In June 2015, the National Park Service completed a feasibility study of the Sewall-Belmont House National Historic Site and concluded that this site met the criteria for inclusion into the park system and would help fill the gaps of women’s equality’s inclusion in the National Park System.
The story of the United States is not limited to any certain demographic, and our national parks and monuments must reflect this to combat an unfortunate display of an incomplete history. Including the Sewall-Belmont House in the National Park System will help reflect the important work of the women’s equality movement in our nation’s history. A designation by President Obama will help make our national parks and monuments more inclusive to the many underrepresented communities in the United States.
A 2014 report by the Center for American Progress shows that out of the 460 national parks and monuments at the time, only 112 were dedicated to diverse peoples and cultures – and of those 112, only eight had a focus on the contributions of women. While there is a lot of work for the United States to improve inclusion in the National Parks System, a designation of the Sewall-Belmont House is a meaningful step in the right direction.
In 2015, the Center for American Progress has reported that presidents historically have a stronger record in creating inclusive national parks and monuments than Congress. President Obama has shown that his Administration continues to be dedicated to promoting inclusivity in our National Park Service by creating or expanding 22 national monuments, nine of which recognize underrepresented communities. While Congress must act to improve its record of inclusivity in the National Parks System, the president has the tools necessary under the Antiquities Act of 1906 to protect historic landmarks and structures as national monuments.
This Congress has shown that there is bipartisan support to designate the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum a unit of the National Park Service. As of today, 16 Senators, alongside Senator Mikulski, are currently co-sponsoring S.1975, the Sewall-Belmont House Act of 2015, highlighting congressional support for this designation. Even though there is good bipartisan support in the Senate for adding the Sewall-Belmont House to the National Park System, protecting public lands and unique cultural and historic sites have been under a relentless attack in Congress over the past several years. Therefore, in order to include the Sewall-Belmont House in our system of national parks and continue honoring the contributions of the women’s equality movement to our nation’s history, we encourage President Obama to act.
I had the privilege of attending the public meeting at the Sewall-Belmont House on April 4, 2016. By hearing from both public officials and private citizens, I was able to understand the importance of this potential designation. Through public testimony, I was able to hear from different communities and their desire to see the National Park Service commemorate the contributions of the Sewall-Belmont House to our nation’s rich history. I was also able to give my own public comment in support of designation by President Obama under the Antiquities Act to the various local and federal representatives present.
We encourage the Obama Administration to use the Antiquities Act to designate the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum a unit of the National Parks Service. As we look back and celebrate the last 100 years of our parks during the National Park Service’s Centennial, we must also look forward to the next 100 years of our parks and ensure that our newest parks continue to tell the story of America’s rich, and ever-changing cultural history.
Arian Rubio speaking in favor of the designation.
Cover photo, the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, courtesy of the Library of Congress.