Tuesday, March 9, 2010

March is Women's History Month

"Iron Jawed Angels"
Alice Paul


Alice Paul  was an American suffragist 
that believed that women should
have the right to vote! 
Alice and her best friend Lucy Burns, 
lead a  successful campaign for women's
suffrage that resulted in the passage
of the Nineteenth Amendment
to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.
For the first time in history,
women across the United States
could participate in elections and vote! 
 Their voices would now be heard!

 Alice Paul was the born on January 11, 1885,
in Moorestown, New Jersey. Her parents were
William Mickle Paul and Tacie Parry Paul. 
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.

In a time when the importance
of a good education was thought of
only for men, Alice Paul ventured beyond
her boundaries, attending such noteworthy
schools as Columbia University,
University of Birmingham (in London),
University of Pennslyvania,
and theWashington college of Law.

Alice Paul

From 1905 to 1928, she received a
Bachelor of Science Degree in Biology,
 a Master of Arts degree in Sociology.
a Ph.D. in Sociology.
a LL.B. and  a LL.M. of Law.
and a Doctorate of Civil Law.

 While in school in England,
 Alice met Emmeline Pankhurst,
founder of the British
suffrage movement, who advocated
 “taking the woman’s movement to the streets.” 

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 Paul meeting with  Mrs. Lawrence Lewis
Pauline Floyd, Secretary

In the Fall of 1912, 
Alice and Lucy approached the
National American Woman Suffrage Association
 having decided to join forces
 toward a constitutional amendment
by directly lobbying congressmen.
They were allowed to take over the
Congressional Committee
 in Washington, D.C.,
 but they had no office,
no budget and few supporters.
 Alice was only 26 years old.

Alice Paul  1913

On March 3, 1913,
Alice organized the largest parade
 ever seen on the  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.

Alice Paul  1915

The publicity of the parade 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.

Alice Paul meeting with Helen Gardener

In January 1017,
Alice founded the National Women's Party
and they began  to picket the  White House.
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?"
 "Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?"

The first day, 12 NWP members
 marched in a slow, square movement
 so passers-bycould 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.

Alice Paul working on the Ratification Banner

Spectators 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:

(President Wilson's words)

Alice Paul standing in front
of the Ratification Banner

Alice 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:
"She 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."

Hundreds of women were arrested,
with 33 women convicted and
thrown into Occoquan Workhouse.
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.
November 15, 1917,
became known as the
Night of Terror at the Workhouse
Under 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.

Photo taken of Lucy Burns
at the Occoquan Workhouse 

They beat Lucy Burns,
chained her hands to
 the cell bars above her head,
and left her there for the night. 
 According to affidavits,
other women were grabbed,
dragged, beaten,
choked, slammed, pinched,
twisted, and kicked.

Newspapers 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
of the convictions.

Congress convened a week
after the women were released,
and the House set January 10
as the date to vote
on the 19th  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
The Senate didn't vote
until October, and it
 failed by two votes.
 The ammendment would not
be completely passed
 until  June 1920.

The fight took 72 years,
spanning two centuries,
18 presidencies, and three wars.
Women could now vote in
the 1920 Presidential Elections. 

Photo of Alice Paul unfurling the
ratification banner over the railing
of the National Woman's Party Headquarters
on August 26, 1920

Did Alice Paul stop there,
after winning her battle with Congress,
 and getting the 19th Amendment passed?

 She  never quit,
 believing that women
everywhere deserved
 equal rights.

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.

In 1923, Alice introduced
the first Equal Rights Amendment:
She continued to re-introduce
the ERA for many years and finally
 got it through Congress in 1970. 
Not enough states voted to ratify
the amendment and she failed. Since then,
 it has been passed and accepted.

From 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 National Women's Party 
 was the only women's organization
to fight for this inclusion.

Alice never married,
committing herself to
a life of causes.
While in her 80's,
she still protested in rallies
for women's rights and
against the Vietnam War.

In 1974, she suffered a stroke
that left her disabled.
On July 9, 1977,
Alice died of heart failure.
She was 92 years old.


 If women had helped to end the first World War,
the second one would not have been necessary.

When you put your hand to the plow,
you can't put it down until you get to the end of the row.

We women of America tell you
that America is not a democracy.
Twenty million women are denied the right to vote.

This world crisis came about without women
having anything to do with it.
 If the women of the world had
not been excluded from world affairs,
 things today might have been different.

The Woman's Party is made up of
women of all  races, creeds and nationalities
who are united on the one program of
working to raise the status of women.

It is better, as far as getting
the vote is concerned,
I believe, to have a small, united group
 than an immense debating society.

Men and women shall have equal rights
throughoutthe United States and
every place subject to its jurisdiction.

"Each of us puts in a little stone and
then you get a great mosaic at the end."


2 Public Domain Images and Biography are a courtsey of:

9 images in Public Domain are a courtesy of:

    I Recommend:

    A HBO Special Presentation Movie
   about Alice Paul and Lucy Burns
   and the passing of the 19th Amendment.
     Made in 2004 and can be found in video stores.


  1. Kimberly, please, by all means link back to me I thank you for posting this piece of history for everyone to read. Whatever I can do to help make this information more public is only for good.
    I thank you for the inspiration.

  2. Hats off to all these historical women!! Beautiful blog..I'm such a vintage lover :)

  3. Awesome website! I watched the movie Iron Jawed Angels 2 weeks ago and now I'm obsessed with the history of what our ancestors fought for. In fact, my Republican Women in Government group is holding a voter registration drive on August 26th to commemorate the 90th Anniversary of the Ratification of the 19th Amendment.


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