Alice Paul, Bad Ass
Alice Paul stands with Margaret Sanger, Ella Baker, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer as one serious bad ass. She pushed the suffrage movement onto the federal agenda by applying public pressure where it mattered most – Woodrow Wilson’s doorstep. And for this, Alice Paul went to prison.
In 1917, President Wilson declared war on Germany and its allies. He announced that by fighting, the United States would “make the world safe for democracy.” This slogan made Alice Paul choke on her lemonade. Most American women, not to mention African American men, didn’t have the right to vote. So why was the US making the world safe for democracy when it hardly practiced it at home?
Paul’s frenemies over at NAWSA kept up their suffrage work and supported the war, but not Alice. Her National Woman’s Party refused to waste precious time rolling bandages. Instead, they reminded Americans that it was pretty damn rich for the leader of a country that didn’t allow women to vote to spout off about spreading democracy.
Alice Paul and the NWP organized women to picket The White House making it impossible for Wilson to forget their demands. Every day for months Woodrow Wilson looked out of his window to see dozens of women dressed in white holding signs asking him, “President Wilson, How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?”
And in a total bad ass move, one sign needled the President by calling him “Kaiser Wilson.” The signs infuriated passing soldiers and sailors so much that they grabbed the women, shoved them to the ground, and beat them.
When the soldiers attacked the women, the police naturally arrested the picketers. They were, after all, “obstructing traffic.” Day after day a new troop of brave women picketed in front of the President’s home and withstood physical attacks, and day after day the police arrested them. Ultimately, Alice Paul joined the picket line, the police arrested her, and on October 20, 1917, they sent her to prison.