Mary Chapin: Alice Paul a fitting figure to remember during Women’s History Month





[Mary Chapin lives in New Hartford. She wrote and produced the first play written about Alice Paul and the quest for women’s rights. It was performed July 16, 1998, in Seneca Falls by members of the League of Women Voters and later that year at the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute and Utica College. Two years ago, it was presented by the New Hartford Players at Utica Monday Nite.]

Women’s History Month, celebrated in March, could easily recognize a number of women, but Alice Paul stands out.

Paul was a young Quaker social worker from New Jersey when she left New York, upset at the cries of women and children being beaten in the tenements. She went to England to pursue her education and found, instead, the English Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Pankhurst women, and a true friend, Irish Catholic Lucy Burns.

Returning to the United States, Paul founded the National Women’s Party. She organized women to picket the White House, asking the president for a woman’s right to vote. The women were arrested by D.C. police for “obstructing traffic,” and when they refused to pay their fine, they were taken to Occoquan prison in Virginia.

On Nov. 15, 1917, the warden ordered guards to teach the suffragists a lesson. Prison guards wielding clubs went on a rampage against the 33 women, beating, slamming and kicking them. They chained Lucy Burns’ hands to the cell bars above her head, leaving her hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. She ended up serving 15 months in jail.

Alice Paul, the general of the suffrage movement, was finally arrested and jailed for six months. In protest, she and others went on a hunger strike and were force-fed. To break her spirit, Alice Paul was secretly sent to a psychopathic ward in a D.C. hospital and it took two weeks for her lawyer and family to find where she had been taken. When released, she continued to send women across the country to work for the vote for women.

Three area women helped solicit money for the suffragists: Lucy Carlile Watson and Glendolyn Bens of Utica and Adelaide Williams White of Rome. Although they did not picket, they were part of a 50-member area women’s group supporting Paul and her efforts to secure the vote....


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Jean Perry - 3/4/2011

Alice Paul was the Martin Luther King of the suffrage movement, only she did it 40 years before MLK and 25 yeats before Ghandi. More people should knoe about her, too bad they don't.


Jean Perry - 3/4/2011

Alice Paul was the Martin Luther King of the suffrage movement, only she did it 40 years before MLK and 25 yeats before Ghandi. More people should knoe about her, too bad they don't.

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