It never ceases to amaze me how often I enter an historic property in the region and realize, my goodness, after 22 years of living here, I’ve never stepped foot into this building. That’s how I felt last week when I walked up the stairs and into the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum on Capitol Hill.Â There was to be a luncheon affair honoring former First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush with the Alice Award, so not only was there a civilized and dignified function scheduled, but supporters and friends could wander throughout the two floors of the museum, mingling, mixing, sipping on Champagne and nibbling on butler passed bites.
Again, let’s go back to the fact that my heels had not yet passed through the threshold of the museum’s doors, so I was immediately taken with the setting. As one who has finally come to appreciate history, its standout courageous leaders, and the buildings which honor them (too many trips to battle fields and old houses when I was young), the Sewall-Belmont House is a real treat.Â Within each room, carefully restored original relics are on display with plaques explaining each one’s purpose in the world of women’s suffrage.Â In case you didn’t know, the museum stores and maintains an extensive collection of suffrage banners, archives and artifacts documenting the continuing effort by women and men of all races, religions and backgrounds to win voting rights and equality for women under the law.Â In fact, along with the Star Spangled Banner, the Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence, the Sewall-Belmont House is one of only four initial projects named by Congress in the legislation that established the â€œSave Americaâ€™s Treasuresâ€ program.
The museum also pays serious homage to the major architects who changed women and politics like Susan B. Anthony and Alice Paul, after whom the Alice Award was named.
As I weaved throughout the rooms and made my way up the narrow staircase into Alice Paul’s bedroom, bed, clothing and shoes included, I felt a quiet moment of respect.Â I could not even imagine living during a time of inequality for my sex, for my race, for my age, for my religion.Â I felt so lucky at that moment and I gave a quick silent thank you to Alice Paul in that room by myself for her relentless energy and fearlessness.Â She was not only a heroine, but an inspiration to many.Â I left the room pledging to myself that I would do more to give exposure to the museum and to the great history which was made, but so not talked of nor celebrated in everyday life.
The luncheon was filled with about 250 people including Ambassadors and dignitaries and friends of Mr. and Mrs. Bush during their time in the White House, who came to see Mrs. Bush be honored for her global humanitarian work, hear from Cokie Roberts, the keynote speaker, and to spend the mid-part of the day with like-minded Washingtonians.Â When the impeccably put together Mrs. Bush entered the room in her stately burgundy dress, with perfectly coiffed hair and genuine smile on her face, everyone stood and did their best to pay respects.
During the opening remarks introducing Mrs. Bush and throughout her concise yet moving speech, we learned of her quiet modesty, which is so similar to Alice Paul’s, and her humble yet passionate never ending fight for equality in countries of conflict like Burma, Afghanistan, and Egypt.Â We heard of the Bush Institute’s women’s initiative, the continuous human rights campaigning and better health action she and her husband as well as UNAIDS, Komen, and the Bush Institute have begun with the Pink Ribbon Red Ribbon work for cervical cancer.
Mrs. Bush is tireless and fearless. She is the recipient of the Alice Award because she is a trailblazer.Â She fights across barriers for women’s freedom, health and to have our voices heard. As she stated: “It is so important for all of us women to support each other.”Â A simple notion which needs to carried out everyday.
Learn more about the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum located at 144 Constitution Ave, NE.
Pamela Lynne Sorensen is the founder of Pamela’s Punch, a leading source of information for the “who, what, when, and where” of Washington, DC’s elite social, professional, and philanthropic scene, which she founded in November of 2006. In 2012 she launched Pacific Punch, based in Los Angeles. Pamela comes from an extensive background in sales and business development from a variety of industries, has been involved with charities and fundraising for a number of years and holds several Board and leadership positions. She currently resides in Arlington, Virginia and when she’s not out on the town, she’s reading or writing while sipping fine wine, or traveling the country and the world ISO adventures, beauty, fun, food, style, libations, music, and the good life. Follow her on Twitter at @pamelaspunch.