A Tribute to Womanhood
Welcome to "I Am Woman"...a tribute to all those women who had the courage and perseverance to stand up and fight for their rights. Thanks to those who came before us we enjoy a freedom unknown to women not too long ago. But, sadly, in many parts of the world, women continue to be repressed. In fact, even in this country there are women living today under the threat of violence...completely controlled by a violent spouse. Some may make it; others won't. Hopefully, one day ALL women will be free. May that day come soon.
(Social reformer, activist, and lawyer. Alice Paul spent much of her life fighting for women's rights)
Alice was born January 11, 1885 in Mt. Laurel, New Jersey. Her parents were Quakers who believed strongly in social equality. In fact, her mom even took young Alice along to suffrage meetings. So, it is no surprise for Alice to grow up to become an important leader for the women's suffrage movement.
Alice graduated from Swathmore college in 1905 and went on to do an internship in social work in New York City. She received her masters in sociology in 1907. Then, for the next few years she travelled to Europe, working closely with the women's suffrage movement in England. There, she was arrested several times for disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace. In 1910, Alice returned to the United States and became involved with the American women's struggle for the right to vote. Eventually, she earned a PHD from the University of Pennsylvania; he dissertation was about the legal rights of women in the United States.
In 1912, she and a friend, Lucy Burns, took over as leaders of NAWSA ( The National American Women's Suffrage Association), but she was dissatisfied with their progress, so in 1916, Alice formed the NWP (National Women's Party) and demanded a constitutional amendment guaranteeing women the right to vote. It focused on a national level and her group even picketed the White House, the firt group to do so . At first, they were largely ignored, but when the United States entered World War I, the suffragists signs became more taunting to President Wilson...even accusing him of being a hypocrite. In essence, the women wanted to know how he could send Americans to died in a war for democracy when voting rights were denied to their women at home. Now, they were becoming a nuisance and an embarrassment, and it was decided that the picketing in front of the White House must be stopped.
They began to assault the picketers, both verbally and physically...and the police did nothing at all to protect the women. Instead, they started arresting the suffragists on charges such as obstructing traffic. At first, the charges were usually dropped, but then they began sentencing the women to jail terms of a few days...but still they continued picketing...and now their prison sentences grew. Finally, in a last ditch attempt to break their spirit, Alice Paul was arrested, tried, and sentenced to serve seven months in prison.
She was placed in solitary confinement, and for the first two weeks, they fed her nothing but bread and water. She became weak and was unable to walk, so they transferred her to the prison hospital. It was here that she began her famous hunger strike...one which others would eventually join. The prison doctors responded by placing her in the psychiatric ward with threats of transferring her to the insane asylum, but she would not been. Now, afraid that she might die, the doctors began to force feed her by holding her down in a chair and inserting a 5-6 foot tube into her mouth and poured liquids into her stomach. But, despite the pain and illness this caused, she still refused to end the hunger strike and her fight for the right to vote.
After 5 weeks in prison, Alice Paul was set free. It seems that the attempts to stop the picketers had backfired. Newspapers throughout the country carried stories about the jail terms and forced feedings, angering many Americans and creating more support than ever for the suffrage movement. Finally, on January 9, 1918, President Wilson announced his support and the next day, the House of Representatives passed the Susan B. Anthony Amendment...giving suffrage to all women citizens. In June 4, 1919, the Senate passed the amendment by one vote...and the next year, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment. That made it official the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Although women had finally won the right to vote, Alice did not stop there. She and her colleagues now began to push for an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution which would guarantee women protection against discrimination. Alice continued to fight until she was debilitated by a stroke in 1974. She died at the age of 92 on July 9, 1977.
"There will never be a new world order until women are a part of it".--Alice Paul
The ERA passed both houses of Congress in 1972, but failed to gain ratification before its June 30, 1982 deadline. On July 21, 2009, Representative Carole B. Maloney from New York introduced the ERA into the House of Representatives. As far as I know, it has not been passed.