Christine de Pizan

Christine de Pizan
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Sunday, January 11, 2015

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women's Suffrage

Alice Paul (born 11 January 1885)

Alice Paul, c. 1917
The American feminist and activist Alice Paul lived a long and full life--she died in 1977, aged ninety-two. Over the course of this long life, she succeeded in many of her political and civil rights goals, credited as one of the early twentieth-century strategists who finally achieved the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, in 1920, granting women in the United States the right to vote.

Paul continued her work on behalf of women even after the passage of the women's suffrage amendment, ensuring that women were included as a protected class in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. 

But she was unable to accomplish the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment. Along with Crystal Eastman, Paul first proposed the amendment in 1923 and presented it as the "Lucretia Mott Amendment" at the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention: 
Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.
The ERA was introduced into every session of Congress between 1923 and 1970. After decades of debate, discussion, study, revision, and clarification, the ERA was finally adopted in 1970 by the 92nd Congress. It was never ratified. It has been reintroduced in Congress every session since 1982, most recently, in the U. S. Senate on 7 May 2015, by New Jersey's Robert Menendez, and in the House on 14 May 2015, by New York's Carolyn Maloney.*

There are many online resources available for Alice Paul, and many excellent books. I like Mary Walton's A Woman's Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot.

You might also enjoy the HBO film, Iron Jawed Angels, which focuses on the last decade of the fight to gain the right to vote for women.

Alice Paul, second from left, 1920
This photo shows Alice Paul (second from left) with members of the National Women's Party, protesting the Republican Convention of 1920 with a banner quoting Susan B. Anthony.

*Update, January 2017: An Equal Rights Amendment was introduced into the 115th Congress shortly after it was convened in January. In the Senate, on 20 January 2017, Robert Menendez (D-NJ) once again introduced the amendment; in the House, on 24 January 2017, the bill was once again introduced by Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). In both houses, the resolution was sent to committee. Where, once again, it died.

Update, January 2019: The Equal Rights Amendment was again introduced into the 116th Congress. In January, "Three-State Strategy" legislation was proposed by Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) in the Senate and by lead sponsor Jackie Speier (D-CA) in the House. In March, "traditional" legislation was proposed by Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and by Carolyn Maloney (D-NY).

Update, January 2022: Nope. Introduced in the 117th Congress. Still not passed.

Update, 12 January 2024: Dead in the 118th Congress too.  

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