FULL NAME: Alice Stokes Paul
BIRTH DATE: January 11, 1885
Moorestown, New Jersey
BACKGROUND: Alice was the first-born child of William Mickle
Paul and Tacie Parry Paul. William was a banker and businessman,
serving as president of the Burlington County Trust Company. Alice
had two brothers, William Jr. and Parry, and a sister, Helen. As
Hixsite Quakers, the family believed in gender equality, education
for women, and working for the betterment of society. Tacie often
brought Alice to her women's suffrage meetings.
Alice attended the Friends School (Quaker) in Moorestown, graduating
at the top of her class. She went on to Swarthmore (a Quaker college
founded by her grandfather in 1901), at the age of 16, graduating
with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology in 1905. While attending
Swarthmore, her father contracted pneumonia and died suddenly. Through
a College Settlement Association fellowship, Alice conducted graduate
work at the New York School of Philanthropy (now Columbia University),
then received a Master of Arts degree in sociology from the University
of Pennsylvania in 1907. That fall, through a scholarship, she went
to England where she studied at the Woodbrooke Settlement for Social
Work, and studied social work at the University of Birmingham and
the London School of Economics. Back in the U.S., Alice received
a Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania in 1912.
In 1922, she earned an LL.B. from the Washington College of Law,
then earned an LL.M. from American University in 1927 and a Doctorate
of Civil Law in 1928.
While in England, Alice met Emmeline Pankhurst, founder of the British
suffrage movement, who advocated “taking the woman’s
movement to the streets.” Alice participated in more radical
protests for woman suffrage, including hunger strikes and even three
prison terms. She met Lucy Burns in a London police station after
being arrested in a suffrage demonstration at the entrance to Parliament.
They participated in some demonstrations together; even getting arrested
and jailed together. Alice also worked at the Dalston branch of the
Charity Organization Society in London, then the Peel Institute of
Social Work at Clerkenwell, and the Christian Social Union Settlement
of Hoxton. She returned to the U.S. in January 1910. Lucy returned
to Brooklyn in the summer of 1912.
fall, Alice and Lucy approached the National American Woman Suffrage
Association (NAWSA), having decided to join forces toward a constitutional
amendment by directly lobbying congressmen. They were allowed to
take over the NAWSA Congressional Committee in Washington, D.C.,
but they had no office, no budget and few supporters. Alice was only
26 years old.
on her experiences in England, Alice organized the largest parade
ever seen -- a spectacle unparalleled in the nation's political capitol
-- on March 3, 1913, the eve of President Woodrow Wilson’s
inauguration. About 8,000 college, professional, middle- and working-class
women dressed in white suffragist costumes marched in units with
banners and floats down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol to the
White House. The goal was to gather at the Daughters of the American
Revolution's Constitution Hall. The crowd was estimated at half a
million people, with many verbally harassing the marchers while police
stood by. Troops finally had to be called to restore order and help
the suffragists get to their destination -- it took six hours.
parade generated more publicity than Alice could have hoped for.
Newspapers carried articles for weeks, with politicians demanding
investigations into police practices in Washington, and commentaries
on the bystanders. The publicity opened the door for the Congressional
Committee to lobby congressmen, and the president. On March 17, Alice
and other suffragists met with President Wilson, who appeared mildly
interested but feigned ignorance and said the time was not right
yet. They met two more times that month. She organized another demonstration
on April 7, opening day of the new Congress. Also in April, Alice
established the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage (CUWS), sanctioned
by NAWSA and dedicated to achieving the federal amendment. By June,
the Senate Committee on Women's Suffrage reported favorably on the
amendment and senators prepared to debate the issue for the first
time since 1887.
the CUWS separated from NAWSA, mainly over financial issues but also
because Alice and NAWSA leaders Anna Howard Shaw and Carrie Chapman
Catt disagreed about the direction of the organization. Alice was
focused on a federal constitutional amendment, whereas Shaw and Catt
were working on state-by-state suffrage. Ultimately, both groups
complemented each other: NAWSA's push to win suffrage in state elections
meant federal politicians had a stake in keeping women voters happy,
while the CUWS's more militant stance kept the suffrage issue at
the forefront, nationally and politically.
Alice founded the Woman's Party for women in western states who had
the vote already. Then in late 1916, the CUWS and the Woman’s
Party merged into the National Woman’s Party (NWP), under Alice's
leadership. She called a halt to any more pleading for the right
to vote -- instead, she mounted an even more militaristic political
campaign demanding passage of the women's
suffrage amendment, which she named the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
point, the women's suffrage fight had already been going on for almost
70 years -- starting in 1848 with a Women's Rights Convention in
Seneca Falls, New York. The first women's suffrage amendment was
presented to Congress in 1878, and reintroduced every year for 40
years, but was never voted on. By 1917, however, support had grown
and women were already voting in 12 western states. And in 1916,
Jeanette Rankin of Montana was the first woman elected to Congress.
But a national suffrage amendment was still no closer to passing.
NWP staged more demonstrations, parades, mass meetings, picketing,
suffrage watch fires, hunger strikes, press communications, and lobbying.
It published a stylish Suffragist weekly paper, organizing
women in the west who could vote. Their tactic was to hold the party
in power (the Democrats) responsible for failure to pass the amendment
-- and they urged women who could to vote against Democrats. NAWSA
leaders condemned the policy, saying pro-suffrage politicians were
in both parties. Suffragists released from prison, in prison uniforms,
rode a "Prison Special" train, speaking throughout the
country. Other women held automobile petition drives across the country.
January 10, 1917, the NWP began picketing the White House -- the
first group in the U.S. to wage a nonviolent civil disobedience campaign.
They became known as the Silent Sentinels, standing silently by the
gates, carrying purple, white and gold banners saying "Mr. President,
what will you do for suffrage?" and "Mr. President, how
long must women wait for liberty?" The first day, 12 NWP members
marched in a slow, square movement so passers-by could see the banners.
Over the next 18 months, more than 1,000 women picketed, including
Alice, day and night, winter and summer, every day except Sunday.
they were politely ignored, but then World War I began on April 6
and the picketers' signs became more pointed -- often using the president's
quotes against him. One banner read: "Democracy Should Begin
at Home." They asked, how could he fight to help disenfranchised
people when he had disenfranchised people at home? They became an
began assaulting the women verbally and physically -- while the police
did nothing to protect them. Then in June, the police began arresting
the picketers on charges of "obstructing traffic." First
the charges were dropped, then the women were sentenced to a few
days' jail terms. But the suffragists kept picketing, and the jail
terms grew longer. Finally, to try to break their spirit, the police
arrested Alice on October 20, 1917, and she was sentenced to seven
months in prison. The banner she carried that day said:
TIME HAS COME TO CONQUER OR SUBMIT, FOR US THERE CAN BE BUT ONE
CHOICE. WE HAVE MADE IT." (President Wilson's words)
was placed in solitary confinement for two weeks and immediately
began a hunger strike. Unable to walk on her release from there,
she was taken to the prison hospital. Others joined the hunger strike. "It
was the strongest weapon left with which to continue ... our battle
...," she later said. Then the prison officials put Alice in
the "psychopathic" ward, hoping to discredit her as insane.
They deprived her of sleep -- she had an electric light, directed
at her face, turned on briefly every hour, every night. And they
continually threatened to transfer her to St. Elizabeth's Hospital,
a notorious asylum in Washington, D.C., as suffering a "mania
of persecution." But she still refused to eat. During the last
week of her 22-day hunger strike, the doctors brutally forced a tube
into her nose and down her throat, pouring liquids into her stomach,
three times a day for three weeks. Despite the pain and illness this
caused, Alice refused to end the hunger strike. One physician reported:
has] a spirit like Joan of Arc, and it is useless to try to change
it. She will die but she will never give up."
of women were arrested, with 33 women convicted and thrown into Occoquan
Workhouse (now the Lorton Correctional Complex). This was the first
of actual violence perpetrated on women: forced feeding, rough handling,
worm-infested food, and no contact with the outside world. Blankets
were only washed once a year. The open toilets could only be flushed
by a guard, who decided when to flush. Doris Stevens, one of the
prisoners, later wrote in The Suffragist:
woman there will ever forget the shock and the hot resentment that
rushed over her when she was told to undress before the entire
company ... We silenced our impulse to resist this indignity, which
grew more poignant as each woman nakedly walked across the great
vacant space to the doorless shower ..."
Bovee, an officer at the Workhouse, stated in an affidavit after
beans, hominy, rice, corn meal ... and cereal have all had worms
in them. Sometimes the worms float to the top of the soup. Often
they are found in the corn bread."
15, 1917, became known as the Night of Terror at the Workhouse:
orders from W.H. Whittaker, superintendent of the Occoquan Workhouse,
as many as forty guards with clubs went on a rampage, brutalizing
thirty-three jailed suffragists. They beat Lucy Burns, chained
her hands to the cell bars above her head, and left her there for
the night. They hurled Dora Lewis into a dark cell, smashed her
head against an iron bed, and knocked her out cold. Her cellmate,
Alice Cosu, who believed Mrs. Lewis to be dead, suffered a heart
attack. According to affidavits, other women were grabbed, dragged,
beaten, choked, slammed, pinched, twisted, and kicked." [Barbara
Leaming, Katherine Hepburn. New York: Crown Publishers, 1995. Page
across the country ran articles about the suffragists' jail terms
and forced feedings -- which angered many Americans and created more
support. With mounting public pressure, the government released all
the suffragists on November 27 and 28, 1917. Alice served five weeks.
Later, the Washington, D.C., Court of Appeals overturned all the
convened a week after the women were released, and the House set
January 10 as the date to vote on the Susan B. Anthony Amendment.
On January 9, 1918, President Wilson announced his support of the
women's suffrage amendment. The next day, the House of Representatives
narrowly passed the amendment (274-136). The Senate didn't vote until
October, and it failed by two votes. From January through October,
the NWP kept pressure on the politicians with front-page news --
burning President Wilson's speeches at public monuments, and burning "watchfires" in
front of the White House, Senate and other federal sites. Hundreds
more women were arrested, conducting hunger strikes while incarcerated.
The NWP urged women voters and male supporters to vote against anti-suffrage
senators up for election that fall.
1918 election left Congress with mostly pro-suffrage members. The
House reaffirmed its vote (304-89). On June 4, 1919, the Senate passed
the amendment by one vote. On August 26, 1920, the last state (of
36 states needed) to ratify it was Tennessee. Women voted for the
first time in the 1920 presidential election -- including Florence
Harding, the next First Lady. The fight took 72 years -- spanning
two centuries, 18 presidencies, and three wars.
15, 1921 (Susan B. Anthony's birthday), a statue commissioned by
Alice and the NWP was placed in the Rotunda of the Capitol. Sculpted
in Carrara, Italy, the statue depicted Lucretia Mott followed by
Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, with the unfinished
portion in back representing women leaders to come. It stayed in
the Rotunda for two days, then was relegated to the crypt of the
Capitol. To this day, it is the only national monument to the women's
1922, Alice went on to study law at the Washington College of Law.
She still had unfinished business, to "remove all remaining
forms of the subjection of women." The following year, she introduced
the first Equal Rights Amendment: "Men and women shall have
equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject
to its jurisdiction." She continued to re-introduce the ERA
for many years -- finally getting it through Congress in 1970. But
the ERA failed to win ratification from enough states within the
specific time limit, and it failed. Alice went on to receive a Master’s
and Doctorate legal degrees from American University (Washington,
D.C.) in 1927 and 1928.
late 1920s, Alice broadened NWP's activities internationally; then
founded the World Woman's Party (WWP) in 1938, later renamed the
World Woman's Party for Equal Rights, and headquartered in Geneva,
Switzerland. Through this group, particularly from 1938 through 1953,
Alice worked closely with the League of Nations and later with the
United Nations, trying to achieve equality and the rights of women
around the world. The WWP was responsible for establishing the U.N.
Commission on the Status of Women in 1946.
World War II broke out, in September 1939 in Europe, the WWP headquarters
became a refuge for people escaping the Nazi terror. The group and
Alice also helped them find American sponsors, get passports and
travel safely to the U.S. However, in the spring of 1941, with Nazi
restrictions imposed, the WWP relocated to Washington, D.C. Alice
said that if women had helped to end the first World War, the second
one would not have been necessary.
the mid-1950s on, Alice re-focused on women's issues in the U.S.,
trying to have prohibition of sex discrimination included in the
pending civil rights bill. She was not successful until the next
decade. At 79 years of age, Alice ran the NWP's lobbying campaign
to add a sex discrimination category to Title VII of the Civil Rights
Act of 1964. The NWP was the only women's organization to fight for
never married, committing herself to a life of causes. When she returned
to the U.S. in 1941, she lived with her sister Helen, after that
she lived with activist Elsie Hill, her closest friend. After Elsie
died in the late 1960s, Alice lived alone in reduced circumstances
in the Alta Craig Nursing Home in Ridgefield, Connecticut. But she
still protested in rallies for women's rights and against the Vietnam
War -- while in her 80s.
named Alice Muller, who had met Alice through the WWP and had stayed
with her family at the Swiss headquarters through Alice's help, found
out about her mentor and friend living in Connecticut. She had her
attorney son contact a Quaker judge in New Jersey about looking into
providing assistance. Alice was moved to the Greenleaf Extension
Home in Moorestown, New Jersey -- an institution her family had endowed
many years earlier. The Mullers visited her there. In 1974, she suffered
a stroke that left her disabled. On July 9, 1977, Alice died of heart
failure. She was 92 years old.
active, the NWP continues to fight for ratification of the ERA and
other women's rights issues. On June 26, 1997 -- after 75 years,
a Congressional Resolution, and $75,000 raised by the National Museum
of Women's History -- the statue of the suffrage leaders was returned
to the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol.
OF DEATH: July 9, 1977
OF DEATH: Moorestown, New Jersey
BY: Georgia Swanson
Anne, editor. Women in World History: A Biographical Encyclopedia.
Waterford, Conn.: Yorkin Publications, 1999-2000.
Sara M. Born for Liberty. The Free Press: Macmillan, N.Y.
Robert S. "'I Was Arrested Of Course...': An Interview with
Miss Alice Paul," in American Heritage. Vol. 25. February
1974. Pages 16-24, 92-94.
Inez Hayes. The Story of Alice Paul and the National Woman’s
Party. Denlinger’s Pub., LTD: Fairfax,VA. 1977.
Inez Hayes. Up Hill With Banners Flying. The National Woman's
Party: Washington, D.C. 1964.
Christine A. From Equal Suffrage to Equal Rights: Alice Paul
and the National Woman's Party, 1910-1928. New York University
Press: NY. 1986.
Phyllis J. and Bernard L. Witlieb. The Books of Women’s
Firsts. Random House. 1992.
Anne Firor and Andrew MacKay Scott. One Half the People: The
Fight for Woman Suffrage. Lippincott: Philadelphia, PA. 1975.
Marjorie Spruill, editor. One Woman, One Vote: Rediscovering
the Woman Suffrage Movement. NewSage Press: Troutdale, OR. 1995.
Alice Paul Institute
Paul's Fight For Suffrage -- PBSKids: WayBack. Stand Up For
Your Rights. Features: Women and the Vote
Paul -- Moondance: Three Legendary Feminists, by Sonia Pressman
Paul -- Encyclopedia Britannica: Women in American History
Alice Paul in the Spotlight -- Miami Herald
Oral History Project -- Full Transcript of Interviews with
Alice Paul, 1972-73. The Bancroft Library: U.C. Berkeley, Regional
Oral History Department
Paul -- American Association of University Women: Women's History
Paul -- About.com Women's History
Woman's Party -- Also headquarters for the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum
(of women's history)
Woman's Party Papers -- LexisNexis, Academic & Library
of us puts in a little stone and then you get a great mosaic
at the end."
Paul unfurling the ratification banner over the railing of the
National Woman's Party headquarters on August 26, 1920 -- the
day the 19th Amendment was ratified. The banner was one of the
most important to the NWP. For every state that ratified suffrage,
the members sewed on a star. When Tennessee ratified the amendment,
the final star was sewn on. [Courtesy
of the National Woman's Party]
This information was provided courtesy of
Women in History
from Lakewood Public Library.