Alice Paul

On this date in 1885, feminist Alice Paul was born in Moorestown, N.J., to a Quaker family (Hicksite Friends) which believed in the equality of the sexes. The brainy young woman attended Swarthmore College, then spent a year as a student at the New York School of Philanthropy, while working at a settlement house. Paul earned a master's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in economics and sociology, then won a fellowship to study in England. She took courses at the University of Birmingham and London School of Economics and worked in the British settlement movement. She was thrilled by the militant suffrage activism of the Women's Social and Political Union, led by the Pankhursts. Paul was arrested and imprisoned several times in England, joined in brick-throwing at government buildings, and in hunger strikes. Returning to New Jersey in 1910, she lectured in favor of adopting the British militancy. That year she stopped speaking to Quaker groups after her views were repudiated by them, and transferred her allegiance to pure feminism.

Teaming up with New York friend Lucy Burns, Paul talked the National American Woman Suffrage Association into letting them take over its congressional committee, with help from Jane Addams, in 1912. They set up shop in Washington, D.C., organizing a historic parade of suffragists on March 3, 1913, upstaging the inauguration of President Wilson. Peacefully parading women were attacked by a violent mob, which created huge headlines, and reinvigorated the suffrage campaign. Throughout WWI, Paul and supporters picketed the White House, their placards asking: "How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?" When mobs attacked, police arrested more than 100 suffragists, many of whom were sentenced to notorious workhouses. Paul and other hunger-strikers were forcefed, and she was even transferred to a psychiatric hospital. Public outrage forced President Wilson to unconditionally release the women. Demonstrations continued, and Congress finally enacted the suffrage amendment, ratified by the states in 1920. Paul went to law school, earning three degrees, then began promoting the Equal Rights Amendment, which she called the Lucretia Mott Amendment. Many women's groups of the time, such as the League of Women Voters and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, opposed the ERA on the grounds that women needed protective legislation. Iron-willed Paul never gave up. The amendment was first introduced into Congress in 1923. Paul lobbied for it in every successive session of Congress. In 1972, it finally passed. The combined forces of the tax-exempt religious lobbies of the Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist and Mormon churches defeated the ratification process in 1982. Like Quaker-raised Susan B. Anthony, Paul became an agnostic, according to Warren Allen Smith in Who's Who in Hell. Her story inspired the HBO film, "Iron-Jawed Angels." D. 1977.

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

—Alice Paul. Body of proposed Equal Rights Amendment. For more about Paul, read

Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor

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