“Alice Paul had “a spirit like Joan of Arc, and it is useless to try to change it. She will die but she will never give up.” – Physician at Occoquan Workhouse where Alice Paul was imprisoned for nonviolent actions to win women’s suffrage in the United States.
Alice Paul was born on Jan 11th, 1885. It was a good year for activists . . . A.J. Muste entered the world just a few days earlier that same year. She cut her activist teeth with the British Suffrage movement, working with Christabel and Emmeline Pankhurst in 1909. One time, before a political meeting at St. Andrew’s Hall in Glasgow in August 1909, Paul camped out on the roof of the hall so that she could address the crowd below. She was cheered by the crowd as police forced her to come down. At other times she was imprisoned, beaten, ridiculed, organized hunger strikes in prison and force-fed by prison physicians to break the protests . . . all of which was eerily prescient of the conditions Alice Paul and the American Suffragettes would face later in the US.
Alice would differ from her British counterparts in allowing no property destruction or violent tactics to be deployed in the course of the US movement. She organized provocative, powerful marches and demonstrations, stomped the country working on building up support in the states, and adopted a challenging tactical strategy of demonstration known as the Silent Sentinels which protested six days a week in front of the White House for two and a half years.
After the Nineteenth Amendment was passed and ratified by the states, Alice Paul continued her work organizing for the Equal Rights Amendment (which has yet to be passed) and securing a provision in the 1964 Civil Rights Act for the protection of women.
A few unusual facts: Alice Paul earned a law degree in 1922, followed by a Doctorate in Civil Laws in 1927. She is also featured on the $10 gold coin, which is part of a series of Presidential wives, in lieu of Pres. Chester Arthur’s wife, since he entered the White House as a widower.
Learn more: The Alice Paul Institute has a terrific bio and resources: http://www.alicepaul.org/
Still curious? George Lakey, a longtime activist, wrote an insightful piece on tactics and strategies of the US and British Women’s Suffrage Movements, including interviews with suffragettes, and also a review of the film Suffragette. Read it on Waging Nonviolence.
Author/Activist Rivera Sun, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is the author of The Dandelion Insurrection, Billionaire Buddha and Steam Drills, Treadmills, and Shooting Stars, the cohost of Occupy Radio and Love (and Revolution) Radio, and the cofounder of the Love-In-Action Network. She is a trainer and social media coordinator for Campaign Nonviolence and Pace e Bene. Sun attended the James Lawson Institute on Strategic Nonviolent Resistance in 2014 and her essays on social justice movements appear in Truthout and Popular Resistance. www.riverasun.com