Alice Paul

Key Activist Winning Women's Vote

Alice Paul, about 1920
Alice Paul, about 1920. PhotoQuest / Archive Photos / Getty Images

Alice Paul Facts

Known for: one of the leading figures responsible for the passage of the 19th Amendment (woman suffrage) to the U.S. Constitution

Occupation: activist, reformer
Dates: January 11, 1885 - July 9, 1977

Alice Paul Biography:

Alice Paul was raised as a Quaker, attended Swarthmore College, and worked at the New York College Settlement while attending the New York School of Social Work. Alice Paul left for England in 1906 to work in the settlement house movement there for three years.

She studied at university in England and returned to get her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania (1912).

National Woman's Party

Alice Paul was chair of a major committee (congressional) of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) within a year, in her mid-twenties, but a year later (1913) Alice Paul and others withdrew from the NAWSA to form the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage. This organization evolved into the National Woman's Party in 1917, and Alice Paul's leadership was key to this organization's founding and future.

Alice Paul Learns Militancy

In England, Alice Paul had taken part in more radical protests for woman suffrage, including participating in the hunger strikes. She brought back this sense of militancy, and back in the U.S. she organized protests and rallies and ended up imprisoned three times.

NWP versus NAWSA

Alice Paul and the National Woman's Party emphasized working for a federal constitutional amendment for suffrage.

Their position was at odds with the position of the NAWSA, headed by Carrie Chapman Catt, which was to work state-by-state as well as at the federal level.

NWP and NAWSA Synergy

Despite the often intense acrimony between the National Woman's Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association, it's probably fair to say (in retrospect) that the two groups' tactics complemented each other.

 NAWSA's taking more deliberate action to win suffrage in elections meant that more politicians at the federal level had a stake in keeping women voters happy. The NWP's militant stands kept the issue of woman suffrage at the forefront of the political world.

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)

After the 1920 victory for the federal amendment, Paul became involved in the struggle to introduce and pass an Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). The Equal Rights Amendment was finally passed by Congress in 1970 and sent to the states to ratify. However, the number of states necessary never ratified the ERA within the specified time limit, and the Amendment failed.

Alice Paul and Peace

Paul also was active in the Peace movement, stating at the outbreak of World War II that if women had helped to end World War I, the second war would not have been necessary.

Alice Paul's Death

Alice Paul died in 1977 in New Jersey, after the heated battle for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) brought her once more to the forefront of the American political scene.

​​Books on Alice Paul

Amy E. Butler. Two Paths to Equality: Alice Paul and Ethel M. Smith in the ERA Debate, 1921-1929

Eleanor Clift. Founding Sisters and the Nineteenth Amendment.

Inez H. Irwin. Story of Alice Paul & the National Woman's Party.

Christine Lunardini. From Equal Suffrage to Equal Rights: Alice Paul and the National Woman's Party, 1910-1928.

More women's history biographies, by name:

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P/Q | R | S | T | U/V | W | X/Y/Z