Muckrakers & Reformers
Alice Paul (1885-1977), suffragette and founder of the National Women's Party, was a central figure in the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women's suffrage and one of the most radical women's rights activists of the early twentieth century.
Paul's radical ideology led her to break with the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and help form the Congressional Union, later known as the National Women's Party. Inspired by the militant Women's Social and Political Union in England, Paul advocated that women "hold the party in power responsible" by voting against Democrat Woodrow Wilson in the election of 1916. The conflict between Paul and the NAWSA President Carrie Chapman Catt, a Wilson supporter, led to a serious ideological divide within the movement. At the helm of the NWP, Paul orchestrated the first-ever picket line at the White House in 1917, was arrested on a trumped-up charge of "obstructing traffic" and sent to the Occoquan Workhouse, where she demanded to be treated as a political prisoner arrested for her beliefs, rather than for committing a crime. When reports of her treatment reached the press, public pressure forced the White House to order her release. After helping to win ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920, Paul went to law school and wrote the first version of the (still unsuccessful) Equal Rights Amendment, which was first presented to Congress in 1923. She lobbied for women's rights until her death in 1977.