“Alice Paul brought back to the fight that note of immediacy which
had gone with the passing of Miss Anthony’s leadership. She
called a halt on further pleading, wheedling, proving, praying.
It was as if she had bidden women stand erect, with confidence in
themselves and in their own judgments, and compelled them to be
self-respecting enough to dare to put their freedom first, and so
determine for themselves the day when they should be free. Those
who had a taste of begging under the old regime and who abandoned
it for demanding, know how fine and strong a thing it is to
realize that you must take what is yours and not waste your
energy proving that you are or will some day be worthy of a gift
of power from your masters. On that glad day of discovery you
have first freed yourself to fight for freedom. Alice Paul gave to
thousands of women the essence of freedom.”
This statement about suffrage activist Alice Paul states what one person, Doris Stevens, saw as an eyewitness as the essence of Alice Paul. Edna Kearns describes Alice Paul when she first met her in at the big suffrage parade in Washington, DC in March of 1913. And then later in the book, An Unfinished Revolution: Edna Buckman Kearns and the Struggle for Women’s Rights, (SUNY Press, 2021), there is another view of Alice Paul in 1919 when Edna Kearns was in a suffrage protest demonstration with Paul in New York City. Today there are those who describe Alice Paul in not complementary terms based on their own perspective and feelings. Going out into the public is ever easy, and we open ourselves to criticism, deserved and undeserved, whenever we or others have taken a major risk. Organizer Alice Paul took great pains to keep her public life private and unrecorded and yet her memory has survived many rounds of criticism from those today who have distinct views about decisions involving Paul and organization of the 1913 big suffrage parade.
My response is basic. We stand on the shoulders of those who have come before us. And we pass a torch of freedom to those in the future who then stand on our shoulders to carry the torch of freedom forward.
Suffrage Wagon News Channel has been publishing since 2009.
We’re supporting the New York State Museum in placing the Spirit of 1776 suffrage campaign wagon used by Edna Kearns and others on permanent exhibition.