To look at her picture, Alice Paul doesn't look like a stubborn, courageous, intelligent woman. But looks can be deceiving. Behind that gentle exterior was a tenacious spirit, willing to fight for what she believed in despite the personal costs.
In my novel, ALONG THE WAY, Sophie travels to Washington to join Alice Paul in her protests and to help promote the cause of women's right to vote. In the course of my research, I learned much about Alice Paul and gained great respect for her as an influential activist.
Alice Paul was born to a Quaker family in New Jersey. She graduated from Swarthmore College in 1905, went on to attend the New York School of Philanthropy, the University of Pennsylvania, and a training school for Quakers in Woodbridge, England. While there, she became involved with a radical movement for women's suffrage, and when she returned to the States she brought the lessons she had learned from them.
Alice Paul, with her friend Lucy Burns, were the first to lead pickets at the White House. President Woodrow Wilson didn't take the women very seriously, tipping his hat in greeting as he came and went. When the United States entered World War 1 in 1917, many believed that it was unpatriotic to continue these pickets. Alice Paul, Lucy Burns, and other members of the NWP disagreed and continued to bring public attention to their cause.
Their tactics were nonviolent and they were referred to as the Silent Sentinels standing at the gates of the White House with signs that proclaimed their beliefs. No matter how provoked, they held their silence. Under false charges, they were arrested and imprisoned. In response, they went on hunger strikes and were force-fed. They suffered years of ridicule, harassment, and abuse as they continued to push for the basic right women deserved as citizens of their country: the right to elect their own leaders and to participate in their own government.
Their tactics brought attention to the inconsistency of the President's campaign to bring democracy to nations abroad while continuing to deny the citizens of his own country the right to vote because of their gender. It finally became politically expedient to grant the women their request and the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920--seventy-two years after the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, the first national push for women's rights, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott.