Alice Paul, circa 1901
January 11, 1885|
Mount Laurel Township, New Jersey
|Died||July 9, 1977
Moorestown Township, New Jersey
|Alma mater||University of Birmingham, University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, American University|
|Parents||William Mickle Paul I (1850-1902)
|Relatives||Siblings: Helen, Parry and Willam|
Alice Stokes Paul (January 11, 1885 – July 9, 1977) was an American suffragist and women's rights activist. As the main leader and strategist of the campaign, and along with Lucy Burns and others, she led a successful campaign for women's suffrage that resulted in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
Alice Paul received her undergraduate education from Swarthmore College, and then earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. She continued her studies at the University of Birmingham in the UK. Paul received her law degree from the Washington College of Law at American University in 1922. In 1927, she earned an LL.M, and in 1928, a Doctorate in Civil Laws from American University.
Women's Suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment
After her graduation from the University of Pennsylvania, Paul moved to England where she first became acquainted with women suffragists and the work that they do. Alice Paul met the Pankhurst women, who were the founders of the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) in Britain. It was through working with these women that Paul had found her life calling, not as a social worker, but to help women win equal rights.
While associated with the WSPU, Paul had been arrested seven times, imprisoned three times, protested the treatment of suffrage prisoners with hunger strikes and participated within marches and demonstrations. Alice Paul was never afraid to put herself out into the open in order to gain people’s attention and make them realize that they need to listen to what is being said by herself and her fellow suffragettes. During the fall of 1909, Paul and another suffragette had disguised themselves as cleaning women within the hall in which a banquet was being held for the Prime Minister and most of the cabinet. It was when the Prime Minister stood up in order to deliver his speech that Paul and the other suffragette threw their shoes and broke stain glass windows in order to gain the people’s attention and began to scream “Votes for women!”. It was due to these actions that Paul became known in the United States.
Paul joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) on her return to the United States, and was appointed Chairwoman of their Congressional Committee in Washington, DC. Her initial work was to organize a parade in Washington the day before President Wilson's inauguration, which was a success. After months of fundraising and raising awareness for the cause, membership numbers went up in 1913. Their focus was lobbying for a constitutional amendment to secure the right to vote for women. Such an amendment had originally been sought by suffragists Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton who, as leaders of the NWSA fought for a federal amendment to the constitution securing women's suffrage until the 1890 formation of NAWSA, which campaigned for the vote on a state-by-state basis.
Paul's methods started to create tension between her and the leader of NAWSA, who thought that a constitutional amendment was not then practical. When her lobbying efforts proved fruitless, Paul and her colleagues formed the National Woman's Party (NWP) in 1916 and began introducing some of the methods used by the suffrage movement in Britain. Alva Belmont, a multi-millionaire socialite at the time, provided funding. The NWP was accompanied by press coverage and the publication of the weekly Suffragist.
In the US presidential election of 1916, Paul and the NWP campaigned against the continuing refusal of President Woodrow Wilson and other incumbent Democrats to support the Suffrage Amendment actively. In January 1917, the NWP staged the first political protest to picket the White House. The picketers, known as "Silent Sentinels," held banners demanding the right to vote. This was an example of a non-violent civil disobedience campaign. In July 1917, picketers were arrested on charges of "obstructing traffic." Many, including Paul, were convicted and incarcerated at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia (later the Lorton Correctional Complex) and the District of Columbia Jail.
In a protest of the conditions in Occoquan, Paul commenced a hunger strike, which led to her being moved to the prison’s psychiatric ward and force-fed raw eggs through a feeding tube. "Seems almost unthinkable now, doesn’t it?" Paul told an interviewer from American Heritage when asked about the forced feeding. "It was shocking that a government of men could look with such extreme contempt on a movement that was asking nothing except such a simple little thing as the right to vote."
Paul and other suffragists picketed outside the White House with banners containing slogans such as “Mr. President, How Long Must Women Wait For Liberty?”. Although the suffragists protested peacefully, their protests were not always met kindly.
On the night of November 15, 1917, known as the Night of Terror, a group of protesters was beaten by the police. Many women were beaten to the point of unconsciousness, while others received concussions, lacerations, and broken ribs. None of them received medical assistance. Despite the brutality of the intervention, Paul remained undiscouraged.
Paul's hunger strike, combined with the continuing demonstrations and attendant press coverage, kept pressure on the Wilson administration. In January 1918, Wilson announced that women's suffrage was urgently needed as a "war measure," and strongly urged Congress to pass the legislation. In 1920, after coming down to one vote in the state of Tennessee, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution secured the vote for women.
Alice Paul and her accomplishments were described as follows: “In the next eight years [1913-1921], this young woman was to bring into existence a new political Party of fifty thousand members. She was to raise over three-quarters of a million dollars. She was to establish a headquarters in Washington that became the focus of the liberal forces in the country…She was to institute a Suffrage campaign so swift, so intensive, so compelling—and at the same time so varied, interesting and picturesque—that again and again it pushed the war news out of the preferred position on the front pages of the newspapers of the United States,”.
Equal Rights Amendment
Paul was the original author of a proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution in 1923. The ERA would not find its way to the Senate until 1972 when it was approved by the Senate and submitted to the state legislatures for ratification. Approval by 38 states was required to ensure adoption of the amendment. Not enough states—only 35—voted in favor in time for the deadline. However, efforts to pass the ERA passed by Congress in the 1970s are still afoot, as well as efforts to pass a new equality amendment, and almost half of the U.S. states have adopted the ERA into their state constitutions.
Paul died at the age of 92 on July 9, 1977 at the Quaker Greenleaf Extension Home in Moorestown Township, New Jersey, near her family home of Paulsdale. Before that, she had a stroke in 1974, which disabled her.
Her alma mater Swarthmore College named the Women's Center and a dormitory in her honor. Montclair State University in New Jersey has also named a building in her honor. Hilary Swank, in the HBO 2004 movie Iron Jawed Angels, portrayed Paul during her struggle for passage of the 19th Amendment. Two countries have honored her by issuing a postage stamp: Great Britain in 1981 and the United States in 1995, issuing a 78¢ Great Americans series stamp.
Paul appeared on a United States half-ounce $10 gold coin in 2012, as part of the First Spouse Gold Coin Series. A provision in the Presidential $1 Coin Program (see Pub.L. 109–145, 119 Stat. 2664, enacted December 22, 2005) directs that Presidential spouses be honored. As President Chester A. Arthur was a widower, Paul is shown representing "Arthur's era".
In 1989, the Alice Paul Centennial Foundation was working to raise the funds needed to purchase the brick farmhouse in Mount Laurel Township where Paul was born.
- Iron Jawed Angels, 2004 film about Paul, Lucy Burns and their fight resulting in passage of the 19th Amendment.
- Paulsdale, birthplace and childhood home of Alice Paul in Moorestown, New Jersey.
- List of civil rights leaders
- List of suffragists and suffragettes
- List of women's rights activists
- Timeline of women's suffrage
- Women's suffrage organizations
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alice Paul.|
- "Baker, Jean H., "Placards At The White House," American Heritage, Winter 2010, Volume 59, Issue 4.
- "Honoring Alice Paul". Washington College of Law. Retrieved September 3, 2010.
- "Alice Paul Biography.". Lakewood Public Library: Women in History. Retrieved 2006-05-01.
- "Miss Alice Paul on Hunger Strike", The New York Times, Nov 7, 1917. Accessed June 25, 2012.
- Gallagher, Robert S., "I Was Arrested, Of Course…", American Heritage, February 1974, Volume 25, Issue 2. Interview of Alice Paul.
- Hawranick, Doris & Daugherty
- "ERA Charm Bracelet". National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2008-07-22.
- "Alice Paul, a Leader for Suffrage And Women's Rights, Dies at 92; 'Silent Sentinels'". New York Times. July 10, 1977. "Alice Paul, a pioneer of the women's movement who helped lead the fight for women's suffrage and who, more than 50 years ago, helped draft the forerunner to today's proposed equal rights amendment to the Constitution, died yesterday at the Quaker Greenleaf Extension Home in Moorestown, N.J. She was 92 years old."
- National Womens Hall of Fame
- Alice Paul is explicitly specified in
as represented, in the case of President Chester Alan Arthur, by a design incorporating the name and likeness of Paul, a leading strategist in the suffrage movement, who was instrumental in gaining women the right to vote upon the adoption of the 19th amendment and thus the ability to participate in the election of future Presidents, and who was born on January 11, 1885, during the term of President Arthur
- Kahn, Eve M. "Group Seeks to Buy a Suffragist's Home", The New York Times, July 13, 1989. Accessed March 25, 2011. "The Alice Paul Centennial Foundation plans to buy the house in Mount Laurel, but first the organization must raise $500,000 by Sept. 8.... The 2½-story, stucco-clad brick farmhouse was built in 1840 and once overlooked the Paul family's 173-acre (0.70 km2) Burlington County farm, east of Camden. Miss Paul was born in an upstairs bedroom in 1885 and lived in the house until she left for Swarthmore College in 1901."
- R.Digati (Mar 23, 2002). "Alice Paul". Social Reformer, Suffragette. Find a Grave. Retrieved Aug 17, 2011. (Westfield Friends Burial Ground, Cinnaminson, New Jersey)
- The Alice Paul Institute
- Alice Paul at Lakewood Public Library: Women In History
- The Sewall-Belmont House & Museum—Home of the historic National Woman's Party
- Biographical sketch at the University of Pennsylvania
- Papers, 1785-1985. Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
- "I Was Arrested, Of Course…", American Heritage, February 1974, Volume 25, Issue 2. Interview of Alice Paul by Robert S. Gallagher.
- Conversations with Alice Paul: Woman Suffrage and the Equal Rights Amendment, An Interview Conducted by Amelia R. Fry, 1979, The Bancroft Library