Sunday, January 11, 2009

Happy Birthday Alice Paul

Happy Birthday to feminist foresister Alice Paul (January 11, 1885–July 9, 1977).

The women of today owe her everything.

That debt could begin to be paid by working to get Alice Paul -- and the many courageous women like her -- into the mainstream history books. Contrary to the message of male-centric history books, women have played a vitally important role in the history of this nation. Yet, if you know anything about women's history, the chances are great that you learned it in college, or on your own. Like they say, if you want to disempower a people, keep them ignorant about their history.

Seriously people, if stories about strong and courageous women were widely known and acknowledged as an essential part of our cultural heritage, we'd have a woman in the White House already, and overt misogyny would be a societal taboo instead of everyday life!

Among her many accomplishments, Alice Paul founded the National Woman's Party (NWP) - which staged the first nonviolent civil disobedience campaign in the U.S. and the first political protest to picket the White House. Alice Paul conceived and led the successful campaign for the passage of the Susan B. Anthony Amendment -- giving American women the right to vote. And as soon as the vote was won, Ms. Paul authored the Equal Rights Amendment, etc., etc.

Certainly, Alice Paul was never afraid to criticize sitting presidents, be they Republican or Democratic. Standing outside the White House gates, the women of the NWP burned every word ever written by President Wilson on the subject of democracy. The women burned him in effigy. 'Kaiser Wilson' was a Democrat. (See Alice Paul & Women's His/Herstory memorabilia at TGW Shop.)

"We had a sort of perpetual flame going in an urn outside our headquarters in Lafayette Square. I think we used rags soaked I kerosene. It was really very dramatic because when President Wilson went to Paris for the peace conference, he was always issuing some wonderful idealistic statement that was impossible to reconcile with what he was doing at home. And we had an enormous bell – I don’t recall how we ever got such an enormous bell – and every time Wilson would make one of these speeches, we would toll this great bell, and then somebody would go outside with the President’s speech and, with great dignity, burn it in our little cauldron."
-- Alice Paul
cited in Adams & Keene,
Alice Paul & the American Suffrage Campaign, p. 234