Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Historic Hero: Alice Paul

"This world crisis came about without women having anything to do with it. If the women of the world had not been excluded from world affairs, things today might have been different." -- Alice Paul.

Alice Paul is a name that we do not hear about often enough in our history classes. Our daughters probably will not learn about her courage or her strength, but they should. Alice Paul was one of the leaders of the suffrage movement. She was an educated women in 1907, when most women barely finished high school. She held what would be the equivalent today of an MBA in Economics, having studied in London. After returning to the states, she began fighting vigilantly for the women's right to vote. In November of 1917, she lead a silent picket at the White House. For her efforts, her whole group of women were arrested. These women were brutally beat by the guards at the prison. Alice responded by going on a hunger strike. The prison then inserted a tube town her throat and force fed her raw eggs to keep her alive.

Woodrow Wilson, the President of the United States, attempted to silence her by having a psychiatrist find her insane. The psychiatrist refused saying that courage sometimes looks like insanity. [Note that Mr. Wilson is NOT my favorite President]. Alice's drive and determination led to the passage of the 19th Amendment, granting the women the right to vote. A right that democrats and the President viciously fought, even to the point of imprisoning many women.

Alice saw the war at the time, and the depression that followed as things that happened because one-half of the population had no right to political process. Men, and more often than not, white European men, owned the wealth and controlled the power. In the US, as in many other countries, while women could vote, they could not own property or direct any political process.

As I ran across the quote above, I realized how little times have changed. Women disproportionately represent our nation. The power still lies within a few hands, of the few powerful, of the few wealthy. Don't get me wrong, I am not advocating socialism. I just find it interesting that like history before, the black man received the right to vote before the woman. The black man received a civil rights act [equal protection act] before the woman. A black man obtained the most powerful office in the world, before a woman.

In reflecting, I realized just how far women have to go. An equal rights amendment for gender has NEVER passed. And this year, a woman ran for both the President and the Vice-Presidency. Both women were brutally scrutinized in ways that men [black or white] never are. They were asked intrusive questions, people commented on their wardrobe, and the "shrill" of their voices were often made fun of. And the saddest part of all of this, was it was not men alone making these comments, but women as well.

Things may be better in this country. I can vote. I can get an education. But the statistics show that I will not be offered the same jobs as a man of equal age and qualifications. I can be a mom. I can be a successful lawyer. But some in the legal community tell me that I will have to seek "non-traditional" roles because I cannot be both. I guess I am mourning the loss of a lady that I had never heard of before, Alice Paul. And I am wondering, when another Alice will rise up? A lady of principal. A lady that pushed the envelope of her times. A lady that in her 30's obtained a law degree. A lady that valiantly fought for her cause: Equal protection for all.

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