Alice Paul

"Deeds, not words," was her motto. Alice Paul was born on January 11, 1885 on a 214-acre farm in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. Her parents were Quakers and she was one of four children. Her father was a banker and a businessman. Alice's mother and father believed in social equality and her mother even took her to suffrage meetings. Alice grew up to be an important leader in the women's suffrage movement. (That was a group that fought for women to have the right to vote.)  After she graduated from Swarthmore College in 1905 Alice did an internship in social work in New York City. She received a masters degree in sociology in 1907 from the University of Pennsylvania. 

She then traveled to Europe and worked with the suffrage movement in England. She went to jail several times for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace because of her work with the women's suffrage movement. In 1910 she returned home and earned a Ph.D. in 1912 from the University of Pennsylvania. Her dissertation was about the legal rights of women in Pennsylvania. 

In 1912 Alice Paul met up with her friend, Lucy Burns, and they took over the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) Congressional Committee, trying to get a constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote. By 1916, she formed the National Woman's Party (NWP) that demanded a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. 


image courtesy of the Library of Congress, American Memory Collection
Click on image to see enlargement

In January 1917, women started to demonstrating in front of the White House for women to have the right to vote. By July, President Wilson was tired of all the demonstration going on and arrest started. She got arrested three times and the third time she went to jail she went on a hunger strike. Alice was force fed three times a day, for three weeks. They held her down to a chair while a tube, about 5 to 6 feet long was put through her mouth and once through her nose. When she got out of jail for the third time she kept fighting for the women's suffrage. Finally, President Wilson gave up fighting and said that he would support a woman's right to voting. After the amendment passed in Congress, Alice and Lucy and others began working for the amendment to be ratified by each state. That finally happened in 1920. That was the first year that women were allowed to vote in the Presidential election. Alice Paul just kept studying and earned a law degree from Washington College of Law in 1922 and a Ph. D. in law from American University in 1928. Alice wrote the first Equal Rights Amendment and in 1923 it was introduced in Congress. It was supposed to prohibit discrimination based on sex. The original amendment read:

"Equality of Rights Under the Law Shall Not Be Denied or Abridged By the United States Or Any State On Account of Sex."

Equal Rights Amendment

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

The amendment never passed. We still don't have an Equal Rights Amendment but it has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1923. Alice Paul continued to work for legal equality for women until her death on July 9, 1977. Today, it's like the time when women could not vote never even existed thanks to Alice Paul and her friends.

for more information:
Alice Paul Talks- Library of Congress 
Votes for Women-Library of Congress  
Alice Paul Institute
PBS Kids - Suffrage
Americas Library.gov- Alice Paul 
HBO film: Iron Jawed Angels

Photo courtesy of the Alice Paul Institute

By Keira, Trina, & Madelyn, fourth grade, 2004

 

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