"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Notable Americans: Alice Paul

Alice Stokes Paul (1885-1977)

Alice Paul was a leader of the American suffragist movement and instrumental in securing women's right to vote in 1920.

Born into a Quaker family, Alice Paul reached educational heights rarely seen in women of her generation. She received her BA from Swarthmore College and her MA in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania. She then pursued further postgraduate study in England at the University of Birmingham and the London School of Economics before returning to the University of Pennsylvania to complete her PhD in political science in 1912.

As an activist with Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU) and the National American Women's Suffrage Association (NAWSA), she frequently ran afoul of the authorities and was once force-fed while on hunger strike with other WSPU members.

Paul formed the National Womens Party (NWP) in 1916 with like-minded friends and, relying on activist tactics she had learned in Britain, made headlines with demonstrations, pickets, hunger strikes and other such attention-grabbing activities. She and a number of followers were arrested in 1917 for conducting a peaceful, silent picket of the White House. The charges against them were "obstructing traffic", for which dubious crime they were confined to a workhouse.

In protest against poor conditions in the workhouse, Paul organized a hunger strike which was joined by other inmates. The attendant press coverage along with continuing demonstrations by the NWP's free members and sympathizers finally pressured the White House into acknowledging in 1918 that women's suffrage was an important issue. Two years later, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution granted American women the right to vote.

The right of citizens in the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
Having secured this essential liberty, Alice Paul dedicated much of the rest of her life to fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment, which remains in limbo as of this writing, requiring ratification by three more states to append it to the Constitution. Five states*, it should be noted, ratified the ERA only to later rescind it.

* Idaho, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kentucky and Tennessee.
The ERA has been ratified only by the House or the Senate (not both) in Nevada, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Missouri, Illinois, North Carolina, South Carolina and Florida.
States which have never even partially ratified the ERA are Utah, Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia.
All other states have ratified the ERA.

Read the Wikipedia article on Alice Paul here.

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