Sociology Index

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Alva Erskine Belmont

Alva Erskine Belmont (January 17, 1853 – January 26, 1933), also known as Alva Vanderbilt from 1875 to 1896, was an American socialite and a major figure in the American women's suffrage movement. Alva Erskine Belmont was noted for her intelligence, strong opinions, and willingness to challenge convention. In 1909, she founded the Political Equality League to get votes for suffrage-supporting New York State politicians, and joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Alva Erskine Belmont later formed her own Political Equality League to seek broad support for suffrage in neighborhoods throughout New York City. Alva Erskine Belmont led New York City's 1912 Women's Votes Parade. In 1916, she was one of the founders of the National Woman's Party and organized the first picketing ever to take place before the White House, in January 1917. Alva Erskine Belmont was elected president of the National Woman's Party, an office she held until her death. On "Equal Pay Day," April 12, 2016, Alva Erskine Belmont was honored as President Barack Obama established the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument in Washington, D.C. Alva Erskine Belmont figures among eminent sociologists of the world.

Drawn into the suffrage movement by Anna Shaw, Belmont donated large sums to the movement, both in the United Kingdom and United States. She established its first "suffrage settlement house" in Harlem, and she included African American women and immigrants in weekend retreats at Beacon Towers, her Gothic style castle in Sands Point. However, she also contributed to the Southern Woman Suffrage Conference, which refused to admit African Americans. She died in Paris on January 26, 1933. Her funeral at Saint Thomas Episcopal Church in New York City featured all female pallbearers and a large contingent of suffragists.