Alice Paul: In Pursuit of Ordinary Equality
Written by Impact100 Member Ginny DeLong
On May 6th, the Non-Profit Outreach Committee welcomed 20 Impact100 SJ members to Paulsdale, the ancestral home of women’s suffrage leader Alice Paul and now the headquarters of the Alice Paul Institute (API). The organization was the 2020 recipient of a $43,000 general operating grant that was used to help expand the national reach of its girl’s leadership programs by enhancing their digital presence.
During the brief lecture and slide presentation by volunteer Mary Kimport, Impact members learned about the life and work of Alice Paul, the history of what was once a 175-acre farm, and the incredible struggle to win the right to vote for women.
About Paulsdale and API
Paulsdale is a National Historic Landmark in Mount Laurel. Built about 1840, it was the birthplace and childhood home of Paul (1885-1977). She was a major leader in the Women’s suffrage movement whose activism led to passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution which granted women the right to vote. Paulsdale was added to the National Register of Historic Places on July 5, 1989 for its significance in social history and politics/government.
API uses Paul’s legacy and other women leaders in history to continue the fight for full gender equality and the development of future leaders through their girls’ leadership programs. The Girls Leadership Council provides young ladies with professional development, leadership skills, international perspectives and advocacy training. API’s Curriculum for Educators provides free activities and lesson plans for K-12 students. Their traveling exhibit market’s the movement using a dynamic traveling pop-up exhibition for businesses, organizations, and schools to host at their site. Their website even includes recordings and transcripts of an oral history interview with Paul herself. Their exhibits are inspiring and show the impact of so many women’s rights icons. Susan B. Anthony’s desk is currently on display.
Learn more about their programs, ways to get involved with their work and becoming mentors to young women by visiting their website.
Alice was raised with the Quaker principles of equality of men and women, a responsibility to social justice, and to right injustices through pacifism. She graduated at the top of her class from Moorestown Friends High School, studied biology at Swarthmore College and was briefly a social worker in New York City. Realizing that social work was not the solution, but rather the treatment of systemic poverty, she set out to change the system. Later in life she also earned three different law degrees – not to become an attorney, rather to better understand the laws she was working to change.
Paul and other suffragists endured violence, humiliation, degradation, and torture, but Alice used masterful but peaceful tactics to overcome these obstacles:
- Alice was arrested seven times, jailed three, and staged hunger strikes each time she was imprisoned which resulted in her being force fed three times a day through a tube inserted into her nose.
- Alice organized a parade in Washington DC the day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration on 3/13/13. Eight-thousand women and men participated, and in spite of the southern organizers demanding that they exclude black women, they marched anyway with their designated contingents.
- Unfortunately, violence ensued during the parade and over 100 women were sent to the hospital to treat injuries. However, the suffrage movement was front page news the next day!
- After President Woodrow Wilson showed indifference toward the movement, 500 women participated in protests outside of the White House from 1917 through 1919, remaining committed no matter what the weather and despite the abuse they endured. Called the “Silent Sentinels,” 168 of them were arrested and imprisoned for “obstructing traffic.” It was the first protest ever outside the White House, and ended with the passage of the 19th amendment.
- Alice remained in the forefront of the rights for women throughout the rest of her life, and is the author of the original Equal Rights Amendment. She passed away in 1977 at the age of 92 still fighting for the ratification of the ERA, which remains unratified today.
For additional information or to sign up for API’s newsletter and event alerts visit: www.alicepaul.org and www.equalrightsamendment.org. Also recommended is the book “Claiming Power” and the 2004 historical drama film “Iron Jawed Angels”.
The presentation and tour were followed by a delicious lunch on the porch and gorgeous grounds of Paulsdale. It was a delightful morning with perfect weather, and presented an opportunity for members to gather, socialize, network and discuss a little business too.