Alice Paul

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Alice Paul
AlicePaul 1901.jpg
Alice Paul, circa 1901
Born (1885-01-11)January 11, 1885
Mount Laurel Township, New Jersey
Died July 9, 1977(1977-07-09) (aged 92)
Moorestown Township, New Jersey
Alma mater University of Birmingham, University of Pennsylvania, Swarthmore College, American University
Occupation Suffragist
Parents William Mickle Paul I (1850-1902)
Tacie Parry
Relatives Siblings: Willam, Helen, and Parry

Alice Stokes Paul (January 11, 1885 – July 9, 1977) was an American suffragist, feminist, and women's rights activist. As one of the main leaders and strategists of the campaign, 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, which prohibits discrimination in the right to vote.[1]

Early life[edit]

Alice Paul was born on January 11, 1885 in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. She grew up in a Quaker family where she was taught that both genders should be treated equally. Her mother, Tacie, was even a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and Paul would sometimes join her mother in attending suffragist meetings. This is how Paul first heard about the suffrage movement and from this experience she developed her drive to not stop for anything until woman had equal rights. [2]


Alice Paul and Helen Gardener, ca. 1908-1915
Alice Paul

Paul attended the Friends School, a Quaker school in Moorestown, where she graduated at the top of her class. [3] She then went to Swarthmore College, co-founded by her grandfather, and earned a B.A. in Biology. Paul then earned her M.A. in sociology and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1907 and 1912 respectively.[2] She continued her studies at the University of Birmingham in the UK. Paul received her law degree (LL.B) from the Washington College of Law at American University in 1922.[4] In 1927, she earned an LL.M, and in 1928, a Doctorate in Civil Laws from American University.[5]

Women's Suffrage and the Nineteenth Amendment[edit]

After her graduation from the University of Pennsylvania, she 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.[6] 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.[6] During the fall of 1909, Paul and another suffragist 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 to deliver his speech that Paul and the other suffragist threw their shoes and broke stained glass windows in order to gain attention, while screaming “Votes for women!”.[6] It was due to these actions that Paul became known in the United States.[6]

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.[5] 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.

Cover to the program for the 1913 Woman Suffrage Parade which Alice Paul organised

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.[5]

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.[5]

In a protest of the conditions in Occoquan, Paul commenced a hunger strike,[7] 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."[8]

Paul and other suffragists picketed outside the White House with banners containing slogans such as “Mr. President, How Long Must Women Wait For Liberty?”. [9] Although the suffragists protested peacefully, their protests were not always met kindly.

On the night of November 14, 1917, known as the Night of Terror, a group of protesters was beaten mercilessly by the police. Many women were beaten to the point of unconsciousness, choked, and one was even stabbed by her own banner, while others received concussions, lacerations, and broken ribs. None of them received medical assistance after the event and the women who were arrested were just threw into concrete "punishment cells." [9] 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.[5] 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[edit]

Paul was the original author of a proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution in 1923.[5] 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.[10]


Paul continued fighting for equal rights until she had a debilitating stroke in 1974. She 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. [3]


Alice Paul was a great suffragist who dedicated her life to the betterment of women, who suffered in unimaginable ways, but was able to accomplish what many thought was impossible. She should be remembered for the incredible work she accomplished and how she reshaped America. She went out fighting for change and she proved that one person does have the power to make a difference. Paul proved that persistence is key and, "When you put your hand to the plow, you can't put it down until you get to the end of the row." [2]

In 1979, she was inducted, posthumously, into the National Women's Hall of Fame.[11]

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.

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.

In 1990, the Alice Paul Institute purchased the brick farmhouse, Paulsdale, in Mount Laurel, New Jersey where Paul was born. Paulsdale is a National Historic Landmark and is on the New Jersey and National Registers of Historic Places. API is keeping Alice Paul’s legacy alive and their mission is to promote gender equality.[2]

Hilary Swank, in the HBO 2004 movie Iron Jawed Angels, portrayed Paul during her struggle for passage of the 19th Amendment.

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".[12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Baker, Jean H., "Placards At The White House," American Heritage, Winter 2010, Volume 59, Issue 4.
  2. ^ a b c d “Alice Paul: Feminist, Suffragist and Political Strategist.” Alice Paul Institute. Last modified November 08, 2010. Accessed April 15, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "Paul, Alice Stokes - Social Welfare History Project." Social Welfare History Project. Web. 16 Apr. 2014. <>.
  4. ^ "Honoring Alice Paul". Washington College of Law. Retrieved September 3, 2010. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f "Alice Paul Biography.". Lakewood Public Library: Women in History. Retrieved 2006-05-01. 
  6. ^ a b c d Dodd, Lynda G. “Parades, Pickets, and Prison: Alice Paul and the Virtues of Unruly Constitutional Citizenship,” 24 J. L. & Pol. 339 (2008): accessed April 16, 2014,
  7. ^ "Miss Alice Paul on Hunger Strike", The New York Times, Nov 7, 1917. Accessed June 25, 2012.
  8. ^ Gallagher, Robert S., "I Was Arrested, Of Course…", American Heritage, February 1974, Volume 25, Issue 2. Interview of Alice Paul.
  9. ^ a b Bernikow, Louise. "Night of Terror Leads to Women's Vote in 1917." Our History. Last modified 29 Oct. 2004. Accessed 16 Apr. 2014. <>.
  10. ^ "ERA Charm Bracelet". National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution. Retrieved 2008-07-22. 
  11. ^ National Womens Hall of Fame
  12. ^ Alice Paul is explicitly specified in 31 U.S.C. § 5112(o)(3)(D)(i)(II)
  • Adams, Katherine H. and Michael L. Keene. Alice Paul and the American Suffrage Campaign. University of Illinois Press, 2007. ISBN 978-0-252-07471-4
  • Walton, Mary. A Woman's Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. ISBN 978-0-230-61175-7

External links[edit]