Posted: May 07, 2016
Knoxville News Sentinel
Phil Francis, vice chair of the Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks.
Recently, the history of women’s rights and American parks converged as we celebrated the establishment of the Sewall-Belmont House National Monument and the centennial of the National Park Service.
One hundred years ago, Alice Paul founded the National Women’s Party to fight for women’s suffrage in the United States. The fight culminated in victory when women were guaranteed the right through the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
One hundred years ago, President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that established the National Park Service.
Women’s rights and the Park Service have seen much progress in the last 100 years, but there is still work to do.
With last week’s announcement, we’ve seen a step in the right direction. President Barack Obama signed a proclamation to establish the Sewall-Belmont House in Washington, D.C., headquarters of the National Women’s Party and center for the women’s suffrage movement, as our newest national monument. This recognition will preserve this important part of American history and share the most complete collection of suffrage and equal rights movement artifacts in America. These documents, banners, newsletters, sashes and lobbying cards help tell the story of women in America.
As a former National Park Service employee, I’m proud to support a park system that is growing to more accurately reflect the diverse range of stories and places in American history. We need to protect the history of past generations for future generations. Paul and others fought so passionately and tirelessly for the rights that are sacred to our nation’s identity.
I have spent time working in historical areas and know firsthand how important it is that our history be preserved as part of the National Park system. Our parks bring history to life and encourage visitors to see the full story of our past. I have watched visitors of all ages get excited about history as they walk the grounds where history has taken place. It’s very important that we continue to protect these special places in our country’s historical inventory.
Today, just nine out of more than 400 national parks have been established specifically to tell the story of women’s history in America. The Sewall-Belmont House is a terrific addition to this small number. I hope to see this number grow throughout my lifetime.
Our daughters and granddaughters deserve to know the stories of women who have come before them to guarantee their rights.