Alice Paul 1885- 1977
Alice Paul was born to a Quaker family in New Jersey. She was college educated and did graduate work in New York City and England. It was in London that Alice became politically active. She was outspoken and unafraid of taking drastic measures in the name of civil rights. She joined the suffrage movement in England, resulting in her arrest and force feeding.
She returned to the United States in 1910 and joined the American suffrage movement while earning her Ph.D. She tried different women’s groups and eventually founded the National Woman’s Party with Lucy Burns. Their goal was to make change at the federal level. The group protested the Woodrow Wilson administration by picketing the White House. They were the first group to protest this way.
Because of these protests, Alice and other women were arrested (the official reason for the arrests was “obstruction of traffic”). Alice and the other women had to endure beatings and force feedings after engaging in a hunger strike. The force feedings were malicious more than anything else. Under the guise of providing nutrition, Alice was “fed” raw eggs through tubes in the nose until she vomited blood. This procedure was painful and can cause illness or death. She was then sent to a psychiatric facility, in hopes of being deeming insane. The examining physician simply said, “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.” Eventually there was a public outcry about the women’s imprisonment and they were released, undeterred from their cause.
“When you put your hand to the plow, you can’t put it down until you get to the end of the row.”
-Alice Paul x
The suffrage movement was gaining popularity fast. Between running a country and WWI, Woodrow Wilson could hardly afford to oppose the suffrage movement. In 1917, he grudgingly announced his support. In 1920, the 19th amendment was passed and women officially had the right to vote. Suffrage was a big step, but Alice acknowledged that women still had a long way to go.
“There is danger that because of a great victory women will believe their whole struggle for independence ended. They have still far to go. It is for the Woman’s Party to decide whether there is any way in which it can serve in the struggle which lies ahead to remove the remaining forms of woman’s subordination”
-Alice Paul, 1921 x
After the amendment passed, Alice devoted herself to various empowerment measures for women. She worked for the passage of several versions of the ERA and got an equal rights affirmation included in the preamble to the United Nations charter. Alice worked until she was disabled by a stroke in 1974. She died in her hometown of Moorestown, New Jersey.