The National Woman's Party : Triumph, Defeat and Resilience From Suffrage to ERA
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In this country, most people know important points in American history. Most people can give numerous historical facts concerning George Washington, Pearl Harbor, and the first man on the moon. But how many can relate anything about the accomplishments of women throughout the history of this country, or of the world? Although there are a few women's stories that will forever be preserved in history, the vast majority sink into obscurity, only to be remembered by historical scholars. Society overlooks women's achievements and silences their stories. Dale Spender describes the "historical problem of women's discontinuity with our own history, in Janice Raymond's A Passion for Friends by stating, "It is disturbing to recognize that what we have today in common with women of the past is our experience of being silenced and interrupted; our experience of becoming a member of society in which women have no visible past, no heritage, our experience of existing in a void'' (44). This statement applies to the National Woman's Party (NWP), an organization that played an integral part in the fight for women's suffrage, because the party is almost unknown. The contributions of the NWP are numerous and the history contained in the NWP headquarters, the Sewall-Belmont House, offers a vital part of American social and political history. Yet the vast majority of people have never heard of the NWP, or the party's founder, Alice Paul. My summer internship at the NWP taught me a valuable history lesson that I could not have learned anywhere else. I learned that women are silenced in historical accounts, and I have seen how this silence affects women today. The NWP, which was once a thriving organization with focus and drive, is now suffering from disorganization, poor leadership, and lack of funding. Although the NWP contributed substantially to the status of women in this society, the general public does not recognize it. The importance of the NWP should not be overlooked; its story should be told.