Alva Belmont used her wealth to support the women’s suffrage movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Belmont was born in Alabama in 1853. Her father was a cotton merchant; her mother, the daughter of a U.S. Congressman. During the Civil War, her family lived in Europe, and she attended boarding school in Paris.
With her first husband, William Vanderbilt, Alva lived an opulent life in New York high society. After 20 years, she divorced Vanderbilt, received a large financial settlement, and married again. When her second husband, Oliver Belmont, died in 1908, she turned her attention to women’s voting rights.
Belmont founded the Political Equality League to bring working class, immigrant and African-American women into a movement dominated by middle-class whites. With Alice Paul, she formed the National Women’s Party in 1916 and organized the first-ever picketing in front of the White House.
The Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in Washington, D.C. was named in their honor.