1885 January 11

Alice Paul, Suffragist Leader, Equal Rights Advocate, is Born


Alice Paul, feminist, suffragist leader, and author of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), was born on this day in Mount Laurel Township, New Jersey. Between 1913 and 1917 she led an aggressive campaign by the Woman’s Party in support of a constitutional amendment that would grant women the right to vote. Her tactics primarily involved picketing the White House. Her militant tactics were opposed by moderate suffrage activists. For the major 1917 events, see January 10, 1917; March 4, 1917 (picketing President Wilson’s second inaugural), April 2, 1917 (picketing Wilson address to Congress asking for a declaration of war), August 11, 1917 (when some of her pickets carried the provocative sign “Kaiser Wilson”), and October 20, 1917 (when she was arrested for picketing the White House).

Paul’s aggressive tactics worked. President Wilson reversed himself and, on January 9, 1918, endorsed a constitutional amendment that would grant women the right to vote. The Nineteenth Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920, and women voted for the first time in all state and federal elections on November 2, 1920.

Alice Paul also wrote and introduced the original Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would have guaranteed women equality, on July 21, 1923. The ERA was voted on several times in the 1940s and 1950s, but never secured the required number of votes for a proposed Constitutional amendment. In a very different political climate, it passed Congress on March 22, 1972, and was sent to the states for ratification. After quickly securing a number of state ratifications, however, it ran into fierce neo-conservative opposition and died.

Read Paul’s biography: Jill Zahniser and Amelia Fry, Alice Paul: Claiming Power (2014)

And more: Mary Walton, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot (2010)

Read Paul’s Oral History interview: http://content.cdlib.org/ark:/13030/kt6f59n89c/

Learn more: Christine A. Lunardini, From Equal Suffrage to Equal Rights: Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party, 1910–1928 (1986)

Watch the Video, Who Was Alice Paul?: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fctY7-1BqA

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