Paul was born on January 11, 1885 at Paulsdale, her family farm in Mt. Laurel,
New Jersey. Alice was a Quaker, and she attended Quaker school
and church in nearby Moorestown. Alice’s parents, teachers and friends shared
the belief that women and men are equal and should have the same opportunities
and rights. Alice was taught that each person has a duty to make the world a
After she finished college,
Alice traveled to England and there she started working for
women’s rights in the British suffrage movement. She planned parades to
attract attention to the suffrage cause. Many times she and other suffragists were arrested by the police and sent to jail.
returned to America in 1910 to work for a federal
amendment to the
U.S. Constitution that would give women suffrage. Alice liked some of the
ideas that she had learned in England and decided to try them in America. First
she planned a large parade for women’s suffrage in Washington, D.C. It was a
beautiful sight! Thousands of women and men marched in the parade, carrying
purple, white and gold banners and signs. Thousands more who stood and watched
the parade learned about the suffrage cause.
Alice had an unusual ability to
encourage people to work very hard or to try something they had never done
before for the sake of the cause. She worked so hard herself that the people
who worked for her rarely complained. Alice was a very organized person who
understood what was needed to get a job done and how many people would be needed
to finish it.
Alice and her loyal followers
formed a new political party, the National Woman’s Party, with one plank – votes for women! The Woman’s Party had its
headquarters across the street from the White House where they hung
purple, gold and white banners out the windows so the President and any
passers-by could see them.
1917 the National Woman’s Party tried a new
tactic to get
attention to suffrage. They picketed in front of the White House,
holding colored banners or picket signs with messages on them. They were called
the “silent sentinels” because they stood like guards at the White House gates
and because Alice told them to stay silent and to not argue with anyone who
might criticize what they were doing. Everyone who came to visit the President
at the White House saw the pickets and their messages. Many people criticized
the women, because they didn’t believe women should vote, but many others
supported the National Woman’s Party and the “silent sentinels.” After six
months, police began arresting the women for blocking traffic. Almost 200
women, including Alice Paul, spent the summer and autumn of 1917 in jail.
The National Woman’s Party’s
tactics convinced the President and many members of the Congress that
they should support women’s suffrage. The Congress passed the
to the Constitution and it was up to the states to
it. It took more than a year for 36 states to
amendment, but finally, in August 1920, American women won the vote.
Alice Paul felt that the vote
was the first step to full equality for women. She spent the rest of her life,
until her death in 1977, working for a new Constitutional amendment, the
Equal Rights Amendment, which would make sure that every person has the
same opportunities and rights.