Though few know her name, it was Alice Paul whose determination and courage were the driving force behind women winning the right to vote after a sixty two year struggle.
The seed of passion for women’s suffrage was planted early in Alice’s life by her mother, who would often bring her along to her suffrage meetings.
As Alice grew, so did her conviction that women deserved to be equal to men, and were entitled to the same rights.
After graduating college, Alice became consumed with women’s suffrage. Adopting the creed she had learned from the suffragists in England, “Deeds, not words,” Alice radicalized the women’s movement.
She moved to Washington and organized parades, protests and demonstrations.
When President Woodrow Wilson took office, she organized protestors to stand in front of the White House bearing signs such as, “President Wilson, how long do you expect us to wait?’ and “Wilson is against Women.”
The women were arrested under the charge of obstructing traffic, and were sent to Occoquan Workhouse, a prison in Virginia. Young and old alike, they were beaten, handcuffed to their cells, kicked, punched and forced into rat infested cells.
Alice staged a hunger strike, and was subsequently tied in a straight jacket and force fed raw eggs until she vomited blood. Prison officials moved her to a sanitarium and had a psychiatrist evaluate her in the hopes he would declare her insane. After his examination, the psychiatrist was asked if Alice’s behavior indicated insanity. His reply, “Courage in women is often mistaken for insanity.”
Once the press published what was happening to the suffragists at Occoquan, there was a public outcry and they were released. Sympathy for the women brought supporters to their cause.
In 1917, President Wilson reversed his position and announced his support of a suffrage amendment.
On August 18, 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, and six days later it was certified. On August 26, 1920, after sixty-two years of struggle and sacrifice, for the first time in our country’s history, women received the right to vote.