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Alice Paul

1885 – 1977

“Too many terms corrupts politicians so they only want to be reelected. ”

Rocking the Vote

During the 1912 presidential campaign, only the Progressive Party’s Theodore Roosevelt supported a woman’s right to vote. Woodrow Wilson, who was noncommittal on suffrage, defeated Roosevelt. In the view of activist Alice Paul, change was taking too long. 

As president of the National Women’s Party (NWP), the more strident wing of the suffrage movement, Paul felt that American women needed to push harder and to make more noise. In 1906 she spent time in England and where she observed the Women’s Social and Political Union in their battle with the British Parliament. Known as “suffragettes,” these British women publicized their cause by regularly disrupting meetings and holding hunger strikes.

In Washington, Paul organized a picket line outside the White House and called upon members of the NWP to lobby Congress to get behind federal support for women’s suffrage. The day before Wilson’s second inauguration, in 1913, Paul and the NWP rallied 5,000 suffragists to march down Pennsylvania Avenue. Onlookers not only shouted at the women but also attacked them; the cavalry had to be called in the break up the riot. But Paul wouldn’t give up. When Wilson addressed Congress soon after his inauguration, she stood in the gallery holding a huge banner that read, “Mr. President, What Will You Do for Women’s Suffrage?” 

Flash forward: In 1932, Alice Paul drafted the first Equal Rights Amendment and went to Seneca Falls, New York, on the 75 anniversary of the first women’s rights convention that proposed it. Susan B. Anthony’s nephew, a Republican representative from Kansas, introduced the amendment to Congress.

 In 1972, Congress passed the ERA, with 87-year-old Paul in the gallery; to date it has not been ratified.

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