In the scorching heat on the day of August 28, 1920, the women of America were undoubtedly feeling a whirl of emotions that perhaps included an overwhelming amount of bliss, relief, and fulfillment. The reasoning behind said feelings is due to the ratification and the passing of the 19th Amendment.
The law that is enforced by the United States Constitution known as the 19th Amendment is the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex (History.com 2009). This day, August 28, 1920, will forever be remembered as the culmination of over 70 years of suffering and opposition for the right to vote unbiased by gender. Not to mention, the many obstacles and life threatening hindrances that were faced by the women suffragists. One woman who has made an immense and lasting impact in the way women were not only viewed but also treated was Alice Paul.
Alice Paul was born in the town of Moorestown, New Jersey on January 11, 1885 into the family of Tacie Parry and William Paul. Alice was raised with the instilled values that everyone was created equally and deserved to be treated that way. Considering the fact that her mother was also a suffragist, and often took young Alice along with her to the women’s rights meetings that she attended, it is understandable why Alice felt so strongly on the topic of equality (National Women’s History Museum). With her strong Quaker background influence, she later attended Swarthmore College in 1905. After graduating, Alice went on to be politically active in England. While in London, Alice was arrested on several occasions for her fearless and tenacious protesting tactics. However, her loyalty and determination for the cause never wavered. She stood firm in her beliefs.
Alice then returned to America by boat in 1910. Here, she continued in the fight for women’s rights. In the year of 1912, Alice devoted herself being a member of the National American Woman Suffrage Association and soon later served as the chair of its congressional committee (National Women’s History Museum). After a year she concluded that making speeches without force wouldn’t make a difference so she decided to leave. In 1913, she co-founded the National Women’s Party with the help of another dedicated women’s rights movement activist, Lucy Burns. Under the leadership of the two strong willed women, the group began protesting and taking more militant approaches. On one specific occasion in January of 1917 over 1,000 “silent sentinels”, including Paul, were picketing at the gates of the White House that was, at that moment, occupied by Woodrow Wilson and his administration (Presidential Proclamation).
Being the first to do this, the women enraged various male spectators and had to endure verbal and physical harassment over the span of the 18 months that they picketed. These very men that troubled the women argued that by protesting at the White House the women were being unpatriotic. This lead to authoritative attention being drawn to the peaceful picketers.
Sequentially, this caused the women to be arrested. In the duration of two months over 500 women were arrested and 168 of those women, one being Alice, were convicted and jailed for obstructing traffic of a busy sidewalk. While incarcerated, the women were beaten and fed rotten food under the instruction of the warden at the prison. After spending some time in the jail, Alice wanted to have her voice as well as her point be heard; therefore she went on a hunger strike.
She was hopeful that if the press heard about the way the suffragists were being handled and if the people also discovered that the women were being treated unconstitutionally then sympathy would be generated in favor of the activists. Eventually, Alice was fed against her will forcefully. After word was released that the women were being managed with excessive force, the people of the country supported and rallied behind the movement. Due to the new found support that the women were receiving, the former president as well as others tried to convince a psychiatrist to claim that Alice was mentally unstable. This in turn would invalidate her stance against the justice system as well as the congress and would also allow the state to permanently institutionalize her in an insane asylum. However, the psychiatrist refused and stated that Alice is a brave and strong woman which did not make her crazy. He also stated that courage in women is often mistaken for insanity by men.
Within a year following the incident, President Woodrow Wilson publicly announced his support to the country. This didn’t earn the women the right to vote, but it did help speed up the process by a tremendous amount of time. It took an additional two years following that admission to meet the required 36 state’s approval and to get the Senate and the House of Representatives to accept the terms of the amendment.
The battle for the right to vote was over, however, many more battles would follow. After achieving the thing she had worked so hard to earn and make a reality, Alice became committed to the Equal Rights Amendment. Though she did not live to see the Equal Rights Amendment added to the constitution, she fought tirelessly and her efforts did not go to waste. She did manage to get an affirmation of equal rights added into the preamble of the United Nations Charter, before her death on July 9, 1977, in Moorestown. In the entirety of her life, Alice accomplished many major and impactful feats, as well as influencing and aiding many other movements. Without the courage and persistence that Alice obtained, the world would be immensely different. The legacy of Alice Paul will live on as the woman who broke down many barriers and changed the lives of women around the country forever. The astonishing inspiration that is Alice Paul and her story, can teach many life lessons.
One life lesson that can and should be learned from Alice is attributed to her bravery and determination. Throughout the length of her tough journey, Alice never gave up and never wavered in her beliefs. When Alice Paul was fighting for women’s rights she wasn’t liked by many people in the country. Many men stood against her but she stuck to what she believed was right even as she was sitting in a jail cell.? Alice Paul will evermore be an inspiration to young girls as well as women all around the globe for her persistence, bravery, determination, and the fact that she was willing to do anything to ensure the rights of women for generations to come.