NE Quadrant, Capitol Hill, Architecturally Significant, Children’s Literature, Federal Government Employees, Female, Genre, Hosts of Literary Salons, Journalists, Radicals, Translators, Also of Interest

Muna Lee
(January 29, 1895 – April 3, 1965)

Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, 144 Constitution Ave NE, Capitol Hill neighborhood, DC. National Historic Site. Open to the public for tours.
Marked with an historic plaque.

Lee was an advocate for suffrage and other feminist causes, and leader of the Pan-American Movement. She published one book of poetry, Sea-Change (1923), and co-authored five mystery novels with Maurice Guinness during the Depression. In addition, she translated books from Spanish to English by Rafael de Nogales, Jorge Carrera Andrade, and Rafael Altamira, and wrote a children's book, Pioneers of Puerto Rico (1944). Her translations of Latin American poets, published widely in anthologies and journals, introduced over thirty Latino authors to English readers for the first time.

Lee married Luis Muñoz Marin in 1919 and they had two children, living alternately in the US and Puerto Rico. In the mid-20s, they maintained a Sunday-night salon in their apartment on the West Side of New York City, gathering together writers and critics, as well as teachers, diplomats, polar explorers, and revolutionaries.

From 1930 to 1932, Lee lived at the Sewell-Belmont House and worked for the National Women's Party as director of national activities. After her return to Puerto Rico, she worked at the University of Puerto Rico and as editor of such journals as La democracia, Equal Rights, and Art in Review. She separated from her husband and returned to DC in 1941, to work as a cultural affairs specialist in the US State Department. She remained until her retirement in 1965, and died later that year of cancer in her home in Old San Juan.

Year: c. 1790 – 1800.
This Neoclassical mansion incorporates an existing brick structure dating from 1750. It was rented by Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin, among others, before Alva Belmont purchased the house in 1929 as headquarters for the National Women’s Party. The house was named a National Historic Landmark in 1974.