Alice Paul, born on January 11, 1885 to Quaker parents in Mt. Laurel, NJ, was an American suffragist, feminist, and women’s rights activist, and the main leader and strategist of the 1910’s campaign for the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which prohibits sex discrimination in the right to vote. Along with Lucy Burns and others, Paul strategized the events, such as the Woman Suffrage Procession and the Silent Sentinels, which led the successful campaign that resulted in its passage in 1920.
Driven to change laws that affected women, she earned a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1912. At first, Paul was a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and served as the chair of its congressional committee. Out of frustration with NAWSA’s policies, however, Paul left to form the more militant Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage with Lucy Burns. The group was later renamed the National Woman’s Party (NWP) with the goal of implementing change on a federal level.
Known for using provocative visual media to make their point, NWP members known as the “Silent Sentinels” picketed the White House under the Woodrow Wilson administration in 1917, making them the first group to take such action. Paul was jailed in October and November of that year because of the protests.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was introduced in every session of Congress from 1923 until it passed in 1972. During the 1940s, both the Republicans and Democrats added the ERA to their party platforms. In 1943, the ERA was rewritten and dubbed the “Alice Paul Amendment.” The new amendment read, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”
After women won the right to vote with the 19th Amendment in 1920, Paul devoted herself to working on additional empowerment measures. In 1923, she introduced the first Equal Rights Amendment in Congress and in later decades worked on a civil rights bill and fair employment practices. Although she did not live to see the ERA added to the U.S. Constitution (to date it remains unratified), she did get an equal rights affirmation included in the preamble to the United Nations charter.
Until she was debilitated by a stroke in 1974, Alice Paul continued her fight for women’s rights. She died on July 9, 1977, in Moorestown, NJ. Her life demonstrates that one person can make a difference! Alice Paul dedicated her life to the single cause of securing equal rights for all women. Her legacy lives on, bearing witness to the significance of her life and inspiring others who struggle for social justice.
The Alice Paul Institute was founded in 1985 and is dedicated to creating a heritage and leadership development center at Paulsdale, NJ. The Institute works to educate and encourage women and girls to take leadership roles in their communities and to continue the long struggle for women’s equality. In her name, API works to fulfill its mission to honor her legacy, preserve her home, and develop future leaders.
On April 20, 2016 Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announced that several denominations of United States currency would be redesigned prior to 2020, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment. The newly designed $10 bill, which will include images which pay homage to the women’s suffrage movement, will feature the images of Alice Paul, Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Lucretia Mott, along with an image of the 1913 Women’s Suffrage Procession that Paul organized.
Women fought hard to win the right to vote. And voting is still the best way for women to ensure that our elected leaders support policies that will expand opportunity, help women and their families through hard times, and strengthen the economy.
MY WISH is that we, as women, do NOT forget those who fought so hard for so long for us to have the right to vote. Alice Paul dedicated her life for us to have this right, honor her by voting in this election.
Please also visit the Alice Paul Institute located in Paulsboro NJ or her website for more information. http://www.alicepaul.org
Mary Beth Iannarella
Girl Talk Marlton for The Wishwall