Feast of Alice Paul (July 8)   Leave a comment

Above:  Alice Paul, 1918

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-37937

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ALICE STOKES PAUL (JANUARY 11, 1885-JULY 9, 1977)

U.S. Quaker Women’s Rights Activist

Alice Paul‘s Quaker faith, with its egalitarian elements, informed and compelled her feminist activism.

Our saint came from a devout Quaker family that valued education and social progressivism.  She, born in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, on January  11, 1885, was a daughter of William Mickle Paul, I (1850-1902), and Tacie Parry Paul (1859-1930).  Alice’s siblings were William Mickle Paul, II (1886-1958), Helen Paul Shearer (1889-1971), and Parry Haines Paul (1895-1956).  Tacie, a suffragette, took young Alice to suffragette meetings.  The influence lasted.

Paul, well-educated, changed her academic course mid-stream.  She, a graduate of Moorestown Friends School, Moorestown,  New Jersey, matriculated at Swarthmore College, Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, as a biology major (B.A., 1905).  A year-long fellowship (1905-1906) at a settlement house on the Lower East Side of Manhattan led to graduate studies in economics, sociology, and political science at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (M.A., 1907).  During the next three years, Paul lived in England.  She studied at the Woodbrooke Quaker Centre, Birmingham; the University of Birmingham; and the London School of Economics.  Our saint also became a militant suffragette.  She endured three prison sentences.  Paul, on hunger strikes, also endured forced feedings.  Our saint, back in the United States of America in 1910, earned her Ph.D. in sociology from the University of Pennsylvania.  Her dissertation was “The Legal Standing of Women in Pennsylvania.”

Paul’s militant feminism, costly to her, benefited many women and the United States of America.  She, one of the founders of the National Woman’s Party (1916), protested, marched, and went to prison.  She and her sister activists, incarcerated unjustly in the “land of the free” that fought World War I allegedly to “make the world safe for democracy,” sought to allow women in all states to vote.  Women could vote in some states and territories yet not others prior to the ratification (1920) of the Nineteenth Amendment.  In prison, Paul and her sister activists, on hunger strikes, endured forced feedings.

(Thomas) Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America (1913-1921), was a difficult historical figure.  He was an unapologetic White Supremacist who segregated the District of Columbia.  (His father, the Reverend Joseph Ruggles Wilson, pastor of First Presbyterian Church, Augusta, Georgia, in 1861, had preached in favor of race-based chattel slavery.  Then Joseph had become a founding father of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America, committed to defending slavery as part of theological orthodoxy.  The apple did not fall far from the tree; Thomas was similar to Joseph.)  In the presidential election of 1912, Wilson, the nominee of the Democratic Party, was not the most progressive candidate.  That mantle fell to the Socialist Party’s Eugene V. Debs.  Progressive Party nominee and former Republican President Theodore Roosevelt, whose platform included universal health care, was more progressive than Wilson.  Wilson, as President, usually governed as a conservative.  He governed as a progressive when he perceived that doing so was to his political advantage, such as shortly prior to the election of 1916, so he could attract the votes of many progressives during the Progressive Era.  Wilson, long an opponent of women’s suffrage, was a target for Paul’s activism.  Her militant tactics paid off; Wilson became a champion of women’s suffrage as the political winds changed course.

(Aside:  In case I have not been sufficiently clear, O reader, I do not like Woodrow Wilson.  I would not name an outhouse after him.  To do so would insult the outhouse.)

Paul studied law after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.  She earned her law degrees (through Doctor of Civil Laws) from the Washington College of Law, American University, Washington, D.C., in 1922, 1927, and 1928.

Paul spent most of the rest of her life working for the legal equality of men and women under the law.  She co-wrote successive versions of the Equal Rights Amendment, starting in 1923, and lobbied for all of them.  Critics came from both the Right and on the Left.  On the Right, support for patriarchy prevailed.  On the Left, fears of losing gender-based protections for women prompted opposition.  In Paul’s mind, anything other than legal egalitarianism for men and women constituted “legalized inequality.”  Our saint also helped to add gender as one of the categories in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Paul, who kept her personal life private and never married, died in Moorestown, New Jersey, on July 9, 1977.  She was 92 years old.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN AND ANATOLIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCHS; AND SAINTS AGATHO, LEO II, AND BENEDICT II, BISHOPS OF ROME; DEFENDERS OF CHRISTOLOGICAL ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH OF ALEXANDRIA, AND CHURCH FATHER; SAINT EUSEBIUS OF LAODICEA, BISHOP OF LAODICEA; AND SAINT ANATOLIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, BISHOP OF LAODICEA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELIODORUS OF ALTINUM, ASSOCIATE OF SAINT JEROME, AND BISHOP OF ALTINUM

THE FEAST OF IMMANUEL NITSCHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICIAN; HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, JACOB VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS SON, WILLIAM HENRY VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS BROTHER, CARL ANTON VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS DAUGHTER, LISETTE (LIZETTA) MARIA VAN VLECK MEINUNG; AND HER SISTER, AMELIA ADELAIDE VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us [like your servant Alice Paul] to use our freedom

to bring justice among people and nations, to the glory of your name;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-14

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 370

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