Alva Erskine Smith (1853-1933)
Mrs "Alva Vanderbilt" then Belmont, Society Hostess, Champion of Women's Rights
Born in Mobile, Alabama, the daughter of a successful cotton merchant and niece of Joseph Desha, Governor of Kentucky. She was brought up in New York and Paris. On one hand, Alva was the haughty, high-handed society hostess of New York's Gilded Age, but she also almost single-handedly pioneered women's rights in America. In 1909, she established the Political Equality League to get votes for suffrage-supporting New York State politicians before joining the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). She was President of the New York Division, leading them at the Women's Votes Parade in 1912. In 1916, she co-founded the National Woman's Party and the following year organized the first picketing ever to take place at The White House. She was elected President of the National Woman's Party, an office she held to her death. She also had a penchant for expensive houses, notably chateaux, and was elected the first female member of the American Institute of Architects. On "Equal Pay Day" (April 12, 2016), Alva was honored as President Barack Obama established the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument.