Narrator: Alice Paul played a major role in helping women gain the right to vote. Born in 1885 in Moorestown, New Jersey, she was raised on the Quaker principle of equality of the sexes. She always strove to put that principle into practice. After graduating from Swarthmore College in 1905, Paul moved to England where she was introduced to the radical tactics of British suffragettes. Paul believed that the militancy of the British women’s struggle had rallied their fellow citizens to the suffrage cause. She brought this belief to America when she returned in 1910.
Back in the U.S., Paul helped organize a massive march of women up Pennsylvania Avenue. She planned it to take place at the same time as Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration in 1913. The protest succeeded in raising nationwide awareness of women’s right to vote.
In 1914, Paul formed the National Woman’s Party, to keep the suffrage movement in the public eye. Three years later the National Woman’s Party staged the first political protest ever to picket the White House. President Wilson arrogantly opposed them and the protesters were arrested for obstructing traffic.
Paul and her fellow picketers were sentenced to prison in Virginia. When their brutal treatment was made public, the press, the people and even politicians demanded their release. Sympathy brought many to support women’s suffrage.
In response to the outcry, President Wilson reversed his position and announced his support for women’s voting rights. In 1919, both the House and the Senate passed the 19th Amendment. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee cast the final ratification vote and women finally gained the right to vote after a 72-year struggle.
After 1920 many suffragettes, having achieved the right to vote, retired from women’s causes. Paul, however, turned her efforts to the Equal Rights Amendment, which she had first proposed in 1923. She lived to see the Congress pass the Amendment in 1972. Even though ratification by the states still remains in the future, by the time of her death in 1977, Alice Paul had become an icon of the Women’s Movement that she had helped to create.