Who is she?
Alice Paul was an American suffragist and feminist, who was the main leader of the 1910s campaign for the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, which prohibits sex discrimination in the right to vote.
She also spent 50 years as the leader of the National Woman’s Party, which fought for the Equal Rights Amendment to secure constitutional equality for women.
After studying sociology at university, Alice heard Christabel Pankhurst speak and moved to London, where she joined the militant suffrage group the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU) led by Christabel and her mother Emmeline Pankhurst. She was arrested repeatedly during suffrage demonstrations and served three jail terms. It was on one of these occasions that she and another suffragist disguised themselves as cleaners at London’s Guildhall, where then Prime Minister Asquith was due to speak. When he did, Alice threw her shoes and broke stained glass windows while yelling “votes for women”. She was arrested, went on a hunger strike, but was force fed.
Back in the US, she organised the 1913 Woman’s Suffrage Parade, and the Silent Sentinels, a series of protests in front of the White House. While peacefully protesting, the women were often beaten and harassed by men. The police never intervened to protect them, instead arresting the protesters and jailing them.
Alice was again imprisoned and went on a hunger strike, but was brutally force-fed, and endured appalling conditions.
The Amendment was finally passed in 1919, which prohibited women being denied the right to vote on the basis of sex.
Why should we thank her?
Alice devoted her entire life to fighting for equal rights for women. She suffered enormous hardships in her repeated incarceration, but never wavered from her cause. A true warrior for women’s rights, if ever there was one.
“It was shocking that a government of men could look with such extreme contempt on a movement that was asking nothing except such a simple little thing as the right to vote.”[