Suffrage

Practitioner: 

Date: 

Mar 3 1913

Location: 

USA

Alice Paul, along with Lucy Burns, joined the National American Woman suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1912. They were allowed to take over the NAWSA Congressional Committee in DC but were given no office or funds. For months Paul and Burns fundraised and significantly increased awareness for the cause. On March 3, 1913 (the eve of President Wilson's inauguration) Paul organized a parade, unparalleled in the capital. 8,000 women with banners and floats marched from the Capitol to the White House. The crowed was estimated at half a million people, some of which verbally and physically harassed the marchers as police officers stood by. The parade won the suffragist cause more publicity than could have been hoped for.

In 1914 Paul and her followers separated from NAWSA. The split was provoked by financial issues and Paul's lean toward more radical methods. Paul was interested in a federal constitutional amendment, whereas NAWSA was working on stat-by-state suffrage. The National Woman's Party (NWP) was formed in 1915, under Paul's leadership. As opposed to pleading for suffrage Paul took a militant stance and demanded the passage of the suffrage amendment.

The NWP began picketing the White House on January 10, 1917. Known as the Silent Sentinels, they were the first group in the U.S. to wage a nonviolent civil disobedience campaign. Over the next 18 months over 1,000 women picketed, including Paul. The picketing continued, even after the U.S. entered WWI. The banners they carried often cleverly quoted the President and demanded that the democracy that was being fought for abroad was fulfilled at home. Picketers were assaulted by spectators and were arrested on charges of "obstructing traffic". Paul was arrested Oct. 20, 1917 and sentenced to seven months in prison.

The women faced horrible conditions in prison. Paul was placed in solitary confinement and she began a hunger strike. She was put in the psych ward and an effort was made to have her discredited as insane. her hunger strike lasted 22 days. Other women joined. She was brutally force fed raw eggs through a feeding tube and was denied sleep, but she continued to refuse to eat.

The press reported these abuses putting more pressure than ever on President Wilson to support suffrage. The house narrowly passed the amendment and congress did as well two years later.

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