Happy Women’s History Month everyone! To celebrate March being Women’s History Month and 2020 being the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, we’re debuting a new series this month called Suffragette Sunday. There are five Sundays in March. On each Sunday, we’ll be featuring a historical woman who was instrumental in the fight to get women the right to vote in the United States. Since there are only five Sundays, we won’t be able to feature everyone, but we hope that these short pieces of these amazing women will inspire you to read more about the suffrage movement and discover something new. 

This week, we’re featuring Alice Paul, a leading figure in the suffrage movement and the passage of the 19th Amendment. 

Alice Paul was born in January 1885 in New Jersey. Her family was Quaker. This meant she had a strong sense of duty towards equality and justice that was supported by her parents. Her mother was even a suffragette herself. Alice attended Swarthmore College and graduated with a degree in biology. She went on to get a master’s and a PhD as well!

Alice got her PhD in England, where she was introduced to some of the key figures in the English suffrage movement, which was a bit more “radical” than the American movement. That involvement inspired Alice quite substantially, and she pioneered the DC Chapter of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. 

Alice’s most well-known contribution to the suffrage movement was her organization of the March 1913 parade on Washington which directly challenged President Woodrow Wilson to support suffrage and put on a spectacle that no one could miss. The parade itself had some issues with racial segregation that ultimately did not help the mvoement, but the parade was well-attended. It featured many women of many colors marching for their rights. In fact, it could not be ignored as the president was trying to focus on his inauguration!

Starting in 1917, she picketed outside the White House for over a year. She challenged the president to ignore them until he couldn’t any longer. The group of women who led these protests were known as the “Silent Sentinels” and caught a lot of flack for their tactics, but they were dedicated to the cause. 

Alice Paul, as a Quaker, did not support violent attempts for women to get the vote, but she wasn’t afraid to go to jail for her protests. She went to jail at least three times for the cause during her life. She was force-feed on several occasions while attempting to hunger strike for the vote, and her experience as a suffragette prisoner and her willingness to talk about the way the government was treating these women who were just trying to get their rights swayed a lot of minds in her direction. 

As we all know, the 19th Amendment was finally ratified in August 1920. Alice Paul was alive to see it. Paul’s work was not done though. She spent the rest of her life fighting for the Equal Rights Amendment, which did not receive the number of ratifications it needed by the deadline in 1982. 

Paul died in July 1977. 

To learn more about Alice Paul, consider picking up one of these books: 

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Aryssa D
FFL Cabinet Member