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President Barack Obama designated as a national monument on Tuesday an important symbol of the women's rights movement — a move that the White House used to highlight the pay gap between men and women.
"What this house shows us is the story of America is a story of progress," Obama said as he stood before the the Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, a historic home in Washington D.C. which once served as the headquarters for the National Woman's Party.
The president's comments came on National Equal Pay Day — a day when those who push for gender pay equity highlight the disparity.
The White House says the site will now become the Belmont-Paul Women's Equality National Monument. Alva Belmont and Alice Paul were figures in the women's rights and suffrage movements.
The museum says the house was erected more than 200 years ago. The National Woman's Party bought the house in 1929 and uses it as its headquarters, advocating for equality and full political representation for women.
For Obama, who has pushed gender pay equity since his he first took office, the moment was more than mere metaphor. The first bill he signed into law as president was the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which makes it easier for women to sue if they learn they aren't being paid equitably.
"I’m not here just to say we should close the wage gap," the president told the gathering which included Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Maryland, tennis star Billie Jean King and women's rights activists. "I’m here to say we will close the wage gap. And if you don’t believe that we’re going to close that wage gap, then you need to come visit this house."
The president also made a veiled reference to professional soccer players fighting for pay equality during his remarks. Some of the sport's most high profile players filed a wage-discrimination complaint against U.S. Soccer two weeks ago.
“Equal pay for equal work should be a fundamental principle of our economy,” Obama said . “It’s the idea that whether you’re a high school teacher, a business executive or a professional soccer player or tennis player, your work should be equally valued and rewarded — whether you are a man or a woman. It’s a simple ideal. It’s a simple principle. … But it’s one where we still fall short. … We don’t want some of our best players on the sidelines.”
And while the president did not endorse fellow Democrat and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for president, he said that he hoped children would one day marvel that there had once never been a female president.
"I want young girls and boys to come here, 10, 20, 100 years from now, to know that women fought for equality, it was not just given to them," he said. "I want them to come here and be astonished that there was ever a time when women could not vote. I want them to be astonished that there was ever a time when women earned less than men for doing the same work. I want them to be astonished that there was ever a time when women were vastly outnumbered in the boardroom or in Congress, that there was ever a time when a woman had never sat in the Oval Office."