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Alice Paul: Quaker Roots Shaped Gender Activist, Her Greatest Achievements

( [email protected] ) Jan 11, 2016 02:33 PM EST
Equal rights activist Alice Paul would have turned 131 years old today. In her honor, she is being depicted today on Google’s search page holding up a sign that reads, “Deeds not words.” No doubt her childhood steeped in Quaker principles, such as absolute equality, including among genders, led to her desire to improve society.
Gender activist Alice Paul would have turned 131 years old today. Today, she is referenced as ''the architect of some of the most outstanding political achievements of the 20th century.'' Google

Equal rights activist Alice Paul would have turned 131 years old today. In her honor, she is being depicted today on Google's search page holding up a sign that reads, "Deeds not words." No doubt her childhood steeped in Quaker principles, such as absolute equality, including among genders, led to her desire to improve society. 

Key in the campaign for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which afforded American women the right to vote, Paul devoted her life to securing equal rights for women, based on her Quaker upbringing, reports The Christian Science Monitor.

Paul was born on Jan. 11, 1885, in Mt. Laurel, N.J. to Quaker parents. She was the eldest of four children of William Mickle Paul and Tacie Paul (née Parry), and a descendant of William Penn, the Quaker founder of Pennsylvania. She grew up in the Quaker tradition of public service; her ancestors included participants in the New Jersey Committee of Correspondence in the Revolutionary era and a state legislative leader in the 19th century.

The Quakers believed that all people, including women, were equal in the sight of God. 

Her mother first introduced Paul to the suffrage movement, taking young Alice to National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) meetings and entertaining members at their home, according to the Alice Paul Institute, based in Paul's hometown. 

(Photo : Wikipedia)
Alice Paul, circa 1915

In 1906, Paul moved to London, and was influenced by radical suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst, who used hunger strikes and incarceration in the name of her cause, reports the Monitor.

She returned to the United States in 1910. With fellow activist Lucy Burns, Paul organized the "Silent Sentinels," a group of women who were the first to picket the White House and hold hunger strikes in protest. 

The women were harassed, threatened to be thrown into insane asylums, and finally jailed, where they were force-fed through tubes when they staged a hunger strike, PBS reports.

In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson announced his support for women's suffrage "as an act of right and justice to the women of the country and the world." The 19th Amendment passed three years later, on Aug. 26, 1920.

Paul earned three law degrees and continued fighting for equality, securing equal rights guarantees both in the United Nations charter and the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Today, she is referenced as "the architect of some of the most outstanding political achievements of the 20th century," according to the Sewall-Belmont House & Museum, a Washington, D.C., institution that commemorates women's history.

She authored and promoted the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which affirms equal rights to the sexes under the law. Congress passed the ERA in 1972, but still has not ratified it

"Women probably are going to do a lot of things that I wish they wouldn't do; but it seems to me that it isn't our business, to say what they should do with it [their liberty]. It is our business to see that they are free," explained Paul, who died on July 9, 1977, at the age of 92.

Tags : Women's Rights, equal rights, Alice Paul, 19th Amendment, ERA, Quakers, William Penn, Quakerism, civil rights, Gender Equality, Gender Issues, Feminism, Right to Vote