It was January 11, 1885 and in Moorestown, New Jersey what I would call a rook in the chess game of women’s suffrage, was born. It’s hard to believe that such an overwhelming infatuation in equality could be so deeply immersed in a woman only twenty-seven years of age. However, when you know that this person is none other than Alice Paul, believing gets easier. It was the defiance caged up inside this fire-cracker of a woman that led her steadily through the great battle of woman’s suffrage.
Growing up in a Quaker home with supportive parents encouraged Paul from an early age to challenge others’ beliefs when they differed from her own. An emphasis was also placed on acting with integrity. Paul never hesitated to do so and she followed her heart with a blind eye, wherever it would lead her. These were the building blocks that shaped a woman who shaped women’s suffrage.
Paul traveled to England on a political apprenticeship. It was in England where she befriended a group of radicals, and there couldn’t have been a better time or place for such a friendship to take place. England was currently absorbed in its own battle with women’s suffrage, and this set off a spark in Paul that grew to ignite a fire when she vowed to herself to bring confrontational feminism to the United States.
If anything were to set Paul aside from her fellow suffragists, it would be her strategies. The sheer audacity behind them! It’s as if her PhD. in Sociology gave her a key into the minds of her adversaries that allowed her to manipulate the movement through their unavoidable weaknesses. For instance, it is one thing to stage a picket, but Paul can twist and engineer one to substantially emphasize its effect. The day before President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration she planned and staged marches of picketers to be held in front of the White House. It was she who step by step led the picketers in the marches. Progress, if anything, was Paul’s main agenda, and she was not one to linger in a place that would any less than catapult her towards her goal.
For some time, Paul was a member of NAWSA (National American Women’s Suffrage Association), but she soon left it for being dissatisfied in its lack of aggression. As a result, she formed the National Women’s Party. The party was successful despite it’s unpopularity for antagonism in regards to NAWSA, but proved to be a more than adequate reinforcement for the association. Where NAWSA left off, the NWP continued its line of motion, like inertia that despite the friction, carries something onward until the end. Perseverance was the asset that created the effect behind her revolts.
Important amendments that took origin from this movement are the Anthony Amendment, 19th Amendment, and the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Paul was a vital element in pressuring the ratification of those listed above, but even more so important in the fact that she was the one to first prepare and draft the ERA. While others believed the right to vote would in turn lead to equality between the sexes, Paul new better, and knew it well. Her fight was not over, and for distinguished success to be reached, one must give up something. It is a great compromise that lingers in this universe.
Paul was not unscathed through her participation in women’s suffrage. It is through these consequences that she can be designated morally courageous. For the sole purpose of exhibiting her presence at her protests Paul faced arrest and harsh beatings. Through the time elapsed during one of her arrests in particular, Paul staged hunger strikes, and in turn lead others to do so. Restrained, those on strike had rubber tubes violently forced down their noses. It was in this fashion that the strikers “ate” for over a month. After her release, the intensity of the determination churning inside of Paul proved too much for those opposed to woman’s rights during the time. She was again arrested and held in solitary confinement on the psychiatric ward of a prison. What would seem a setback in her ability to fight grew to become immense in its impact on the movement. When the prison in which she was held received publicity for its bad conditions, Paul gained national sympathy. This, in turn, tipped over a domino in woman’s suffrage, and the movement received its sought recognition.
Paul’s actions go to show that if there’s a will, there’s a way. I can adapt this lesson in my own life to overcome whatever obstacle I may face. She has taught me to persevere, and with this, I can turn my dreams into a reality. When your goal is possible but somehow keeps avoiding your grasp, Paul also demonstrated that it won’t hurt to get a little on the rough side. Through the lessons she has in objectively taught me, I know that any ordinary person can make a difference.
Paul fought for sixty-five years to gain rights as an American woman, but she only lived to see half of her dream completed. If she could see our society now with the effect the ERA has had, I have no doubt she would be displaying a smile bigger than all of her efforts combined, victory shining eminently in her eyes. As a result of her work, Paul has passed on an obligation to every woman in America. We must strive to make the world a better place. Her legacy may present this as a daunting task, but it really isn’t so. Our morals and values can’t speak for themselves, and it is through us that they must be passed on and weaved through humanity. Contradicting a racial slur or even smiling at a stranger are simple ways we can address this obligation. Opportunities are everywhere; I know I’ll take the next one.
Schnell, J. Christopher. “Paul, Alice (1885-1977).” DISCovering U.S. History. Online ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. Student Resource Center – Junior. Gale. Poudre High School. 18 Feb. 2011 .
Keenan, Sheila. Scholastic Encyclopedia of Women in the United States. New York: Scholastic Reference, 2002. Print.