Paul was arguably the 20th century’s greatest suffragist, enduring brutality and imprisonment and as she fought for the equal vote and then the equal rights amendment. Here are some of the notable words that most reflected her life work:
1. “When the Quakers were founded…one of their principles was and is equality of the sexes. So I never had any other idea…the principle was always there.”
— Alice Paul
Ms. Paul was born to Quaker parents in 1885, in the Moorestown, N.J., community of Paulsdale, in an environment that indeed emphasized equality, save for some exceptions — such as pregnant women not being allowed to attend university. Notably, her suffrage-movement predecessors Susan B. Anthony and Lucretia Mott were also Quakers.
2. “Use thy gumption.”
This Quaker sense of equality extended to Paul’s opportunity to get an education; she graduated from the co-ed Swarthmore College, which her grandfather Judge William Parry founded in 1864.
Paul majored in biology, but it was professor Susan Cunningham — one of the first women admitted to what would become the American Mathematical Society — who encouraged her to put that “gumption” to use, be it at college field hockey or her protests on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Woodrow Wilson’s White House.
3. “Deeds, not words.”
This was the motto of the women in the Pankhurst family, led by the radical-suffragist mother Emmeline, who saw value in garnering attention for the movement through militant actions — including destruction of property — that would make headlines right alongside photos of their arrests.
4. “Resistance to tyranny is obedience to God.”
As Paul joined efforts with the Pankhursts in England, she broke dozens of windows, according to lore, and was arrested and imprisoned. While behind bars, she went on hunger strikes, reportedly finding mental sustenance in the inspiring words of Jefferson and others.
5. “The militant policy is bringing success. . . . The agitation has brought England out of her lethargy.”
— Alice Paul
In 1910, Paul brought that British model of protest back to America, joining the suffrage organization NAWSA and pushing for a federal enfranchisement amendment as a leader in Washington. But Paul and her colleagues would break from NAWSA’s state-focused platform to form the National Woman’s Party, which held “Silent Sentinels” outside the White House. Upon U.S. entry into World War I, though, angry mobs had less tolerance for “Kaiser Wilson” protests outside the president’s residence. Paul and her fellow NWP members were attacked and jailed in brutal conditions at the Occoquan workhouse in Virginia, where they were force-fed during hunger strikes and authorities try to place Paul in a sanitarium.
By 1917, however, public sympathies over such conditions swing in the suffragists’ favor. Wilson reversed course and the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920 — after a seven-decade campaign.
6. “When you put your hand to the plow, you can’t put it down until you get to the end of the row.”
Alice Paul’s late father had said that his daughter followed that profound sense of determination — and indeed she did. In 1923, she began a five-decade fight for an equal-rights amendment (revised in the ’40s and dubbed “the Alice Paul amendment”). Congress passed the ERA Amendment in 1972, but it was never ratified, dying despite the extension of ratification deadlines.
Ms. Paul died in 1977, several miles from her birthplace, still dedicatsed to the fight for the amendment’s ratification.
Today, the Alice Paul Institute, founded in 1985 in New Jersey, continues to spread her significance of her deeds, and the wisdom of her words.