Rights for Women: The Suffrage Movement and Its Leaders

Alice Stokes Paul (1885-1977)

Alice Stokes Paul, social reformer, lawyer, and political strategist, devoted her life to securing equality for women. She led the militant wing of the suffrage movement and, realizing that the vote did not bring women legal equality, wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, introduced to Congress in 1923. Influenced by the radical suffrage movement in England, where she was jailed, Paul returned to the U. S. to found the Congressional Union (1913) whose sole purpose was to lobby for a constitutional amendment for suffrage. She organized the famed 1913 suffrage parade in Washington, D. C., a spectacle unequalled in suffrage history. Differences over tactics with the parent NAWSA led her to form the National Woman’s Party (1916). She introduced picketing at the White House and non-violent confrontation as protest tactics, exhibited a flair for dramatic street theater, and ensured continuing publicity for the cause by the Party’s confrontations with President Wilson. She was arrested, imprisoned, went on a hunger strike, and was force-fed. She founded the World Woman’s Party (1938), which worked to have equal rights for women included as a tenet in the United Nations Charter.

Born a New Jersey Quaker, Paul graduated from Swarthmore, then worked at the New York College Settlement. In England she joined the militant Pankhurst wing of British suffrage. Influenced by their tactics, she introduced them in the U. S., “holding the Party in power responsible” for refusing to pass suffrage. Paul earned a law degree from the Washington College of Law (1922) and an M. A. and Ph.D. from American University (1927-28).  She opposed protective labor laws for women, causing a dramatic rift in the women’s movement lasting until the1960s.

Alice Stokes Paul, Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (LC-DIG-ggbain-33933)

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