President Obama on Tuesday vowed to end pay discrimination against women at an event where he celebrated the decision to turn a house that used to be the headquarters for women's rights advocates into a national monument.
Ensuring that women earn the same as men for doing the same job is a goal that House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and many others strive for, Obama said Tuesday while visiting the Sewall-Belmont House in Washington.
"It's one where we still fall short," Obama said. "We will close the wage gap."
Obama said he made the trip up Pennsylvania Avenue not just to again prod Congress to pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, but to pay homage to the suffragettes who used the house as their launching pad to push for more women's rights after securing the franchise in 1920 with ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Alice Paul, who led the National Women's Party when it made the Sewall-Belmont House its headquarters in 1929, "was a brilliant community organizer," Obama said. She recruited women and men to picket the White House seven days a week to demand women's suffrage.
"This house became a hotbed of activism," he said. Obama added that after the 19th Amendment was ratified, the group advocated for women candidates, inclusion of women in the United Nations charter, equal pay and a host of other gender-equality issues.
"Their ideals shouldn't be relegated to history," Obama said in explaining why he turned their headquarters into a national monument.
He said he wants girls and boys to visit the house and be "astonished that there was ever a time that women couldn't vote." He wants them to be "astonished [to learn] that there was ever a time" that women and men in the same jobs didn't earn the same wages, and that Americans ever thought women weren't up to the task of being president.
Obama said he doesn't know exactly when American women will win total equality, but "I know we're getting closer to that day."
In his brief remarks, Obama thanked Sen. Barbara Mikulski for her role in helping preserve the house over the years. He also noted that the Maryland Democrat, who is retiring this year, is the Senate's longest-serving female member. Tennis legend Billie Jean King, who Obama hailed as a pioneer in the pay-equality movement, was also on hand.