Alice Stokes Paul was born 11 January 1885 in New Jersey and was educated in the United States and in the UK (see links for details of her life). She worked tirelessly for the government to recognize women’s right to vote including marching and participating in demonstrations, enduring physical and verbal attacks from those who disagreed. During one seven-month stint in prison (not her first arrest) in 1917 Ms Paul organized a hunger strike which helped the women gain support for their movement. The Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in August of 1920 (intended to recognize the right to vote for all women, regardless of race, though it really only worked for white women):
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
In 1923 Paul introduced the first Equal Rights Amendment in Congress, and it passed both houses of Congress 49 years later in 1972. The ERA has not yet passed though it was only three states short in 1982. Over the decades she worked on a civil rights bill and fair employment practices. She did work to have an equal rights affirmation included in the preamble to the United Nations Charter. Ms Paul worked for the ERA and women’s rights it until she suffered a stroke in 1974. She died in 1977 at the age of 92.
“I cannot help wondering sometimes what I might have become and might have done if I had lived in a country which had not circumscribed and handicapped me on account of my race, that had allowed me to reach any height I was able to attain.” ~ Mary Church Terrell
Black men and women continued to face barriers to exercising their right to vote well into the 1960’s even though their voting rights were recognized according to the Constitution. After the Civil War states did everything they could to suppress the minority vote including questioning the citizenship of black Americans. Southern states, especially, changed their Constitutions to include literacy tests, poll taxes, property ownership requirements, moral character tests, and some even had “grandfather clauses” that allowed people (men, not women) to vote if their grandfathers had voted (which excluded many African Americans whose grandfathers had been slaves) (paraphrased from helpful entry in Wikipedia). Despite the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which is intended to prevent discrimination in voting based on race, the United States still sees discrimination in voting based on race and income level by way of poll taxes, voter purges, and other means of voter suppression.
“The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” ~Ida B. Wells
Elections determine who will represent us, who teaches our children, who will enact gun safety laws (or who doesn’t care to), how our streets are laid out, how our police will be paid, who will stand up for us when nobody else will, how/if we can get health insurance, and so much more. This stuff doesn’t sound important until it is. Don’t wait; don’t leave decisions as important as these to you and to our future generation in someone else’s hands.
We owe such a debt of gratitude to the women and men who fought for us, but the fight is not over. Every election, no matter how small, is vitally important to all the people of our country, and we still have people turned away from the polls because of illegal practices. When you feel like your vote does not matter, remember that historically, fewer people come out to vote when they aren’t casting their ballot for president (though we don’t have enough eligible voters participating then either). Every vote in every election counts as sometimes those local elections have great impact on a community but are decided by just a few thousand people total. Most importantly, this is your one chance to speak up and be heard, for sure; it’s your best chance even with all the other calls you make, all the postcards and emails you send, it’s the one time you know for sure you will be counted. People fought and died for you to be able speak up.
“Not voting is not a protest. It is a surrender.” ~Keith Ellison
Link: Vote411.org, get information about voting in your area (be sure to donate while you’re there)
Link: Alice Paul, a biography from the National Women’s History Museum. There are some related links, more bios and stories at the end that are also worth reading.
Link: Alice Paul at
Link: Mary Church Terrell at
Link: Ida B. Wells at
Link: Susan Brownell Anthony, a biography from the National Women’s History Museum.
Photo of Alice Paul, 1920, Library of Congress.
#GMVote2017 #FlipItBlue #BLM