Iron Jawed Angels: Effects Of Alice Paul’s NWP On The Enforcement Of The 19th Amendment
Part I – Identification and Evaluation of Sources
This investigation will explore the question: How significant were the effects of Alice Paul’s NWP on the enforcement of the 19th amendment? The focus of this investigation will take place between 1907 and 1920, to allow for analysis of Alice Pauls’s actions towards the ratification of the 19th amendment.
The first source that I will be evaluating is the film Iron Jawed Angels directed by Katja von Garnier. The film highlights Alice Paul and the NWP’s strategic actions in Washington DC, as President Wilson refused to conside with the women. This source is valuable because it is based on a true story of tensions between activists and suffragists during the American Woman’s Suffrage Movement, and focuses on Alice Paul’s ongoing fight for victory. One limitation of this source is that it was released in 2004, so it could potentially be missing some crucial events in the movement since it took place around the 1920s. The purpose of this source is to focus on Alice Paul and Lucy Burns’s strategic tactics used during the Women’s Suffrage Movement. The purpose is valuable because it shows the strides women took during the movement, and how they changed their tactics to target President Wilson. A limitation of the purpose is that there are crucial events that took place that is not included in the film.
The second source I will be evaluating is “Alice Paul: Claiming Power” by Jill Diane. This source is an academic essay created in 2014, published by Oxford University Press. This source is valuable because it has been published relatively recently, so its origin allows for modern ideas of the influence of Alice Paul during the suffragist movement. One limitation of the origin of this source is that it is from England, so there is not much of an American perspective on what happened in America. The source’s purpose was to inform and detail a timeline of Alice Paul’s lifetime and her accomplishments. The purpose is valuable because it makes the source relatively unbiased, as it only details factual evidence. One limitation of this purpose is that there is no argument made about Alice Paul’s influence, which is what my question is asking. The content of the essay, as I stated earlier, is a timeline of Alice Paul’s life and accomplishments. This is valuable because it provides a lot of historical context for the essay, and a background on how Alice Paul affected the women’s suffrage movement. The limitation of this content is that there is little analysis to draw from.
Section 2: Investigation
The nineteenth amendment in the Constitution of the United States states that “the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex” (Archives.gov, 2015). Alice Paul, a hard-headed women’s suffragist, played a significant role in the development and ratification of the 19th amendment. Paul’s fame grew from her passion and dedication to the women of the United States. She led the National Woman’s Party (NWP), a group that fought for women’s rights and led to the creation of the 19th amendment. Her Quaker background in addition to the education she had earned while studying at Swarthmore University had forced her to develop a go hard mentality, encouraging her to fight for what she believed in. Quakerism suggests that every human being contains the light of God. This proposes the thought that God is within everyone at all times, setting everyone as equal and worthy of respect. This reflects how Alice’s Quaker background, suffragist meetings, and high education led her to do the things she did. Without support from her family and friends pushing her towards excellence, Alice Paul may never have been exposed to the issues that suffragists undertake. This helped push her to decide that she needed to take big actions and that the answer she wanted would not just be handed straight to her.
Alice Paul was the coordinator of the NWP, and she had to be strategic with the ways that she would win the votes. She had learned that she couldn’t be stand-offish, instead constantly making bold moves towards the government and citizens “Soon afterward, however, the congressional union and NAWSA split. Pauls’s group insisted all efforts go into a federal suffrage amendment campaign. NAWSA, instead, fought for state suffrage victories.”(Monroe) Alice Pauls’s strategy of going head-to-head with NAWSA (National American Woman Suffrage Association) was an attempt to make a more beneficial impact on citizens in the hope to win over the votes. She thinks that a more aggressive approach would have a stronger impact on the voters. She expressed this by holding suffrage marches, petitions, hearings, public meetings, and more. As Alice Paul protested alongside the members of the NWP, crowds became frustrated and violent.“…she shouted to outlooks: I am being imprisoned, not because I obstructed traffic but because I pointed out to President Wilson the fact that he is obstructing the progress of justice and democracy at home while Americans fight for it abroad.” (Monroe) After Alice Paul was arrested, she still strongly desired success. Even while she was being dragged away she still was fighting to inform President Wilson of where he was found wrong. “Look into your own heart, I swear to you mines no different. You want a place in the trades and professions where you can earn your bread, so do I. You want some means of self-expression, some ways of satisfying your ambitions, so do I. You want a voice in the government under which you live, so do I. What is there to explain?” (Iron Jawed Angels) After Alice was sent to solitary confinement in a psych ward and made the decision to go on a hunger strike; she then was pulled into a meeting with congress. Though her body was malnourished, she was still able to stay strong and never get distracted from the reason she was there. It took starvation, abuse, and death just to get someone to simply listen to these women. She continued to argue her point from her jail cell where she was sentenced to be held for seven months, which soon turned to one after all suffragists were released due to congress’ liability after the women went on hunger strike. “We really thought it was more than educate; we thought it was really changing. (Calisphere, University of California) Alice Paul discusses with the interviewer that to reach her goal of signing an amendment made out to women’s rights to vote, that it would take more than just educating her peers. Instead, she must take the extra steps to change the thought of the women that were being owned by men. She would do this by advocating that women had more potential than traditional gendered roles.
From the start, there were women sided with Alice and her cause who were protesting, marching, and standing up strongly against both men and women.. Alice Paul knew most people were not looking for a change; educating her peers would never be enough. “I don’t wish to make any plead before the court. I have nothing to do with the making of the laws which have put me in this position.”(Iron Jawed Angels). Alice Paul states that she does not want pity, she wants equality. Women were being held in prison for speaking up their desire for voting rights. For protesting this thought in front of the white house, Alice paul was arrested alongside 218 other suffragists. It wasn’t until women were shackled and slandered against that people began to listen. With all the women away from home being held, in prison, men had nobody to do simple tasks for them which women had sooner been held accountable for. “We have made partners of the women in this war, shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not a partnership of privilege and right?…Have I said that the passage of this amendment is a vitally necessary war measure, and do you need further proof?”(Iron Jawed Angels). After learning about the cruel living situations and treatment of the suffragists in prison, President Wilson began considering the role women have played in our history, coming to a realization that women would continue to protest, causing the US to struggle in the war. This speech still failed to motivate votes towards the women and it wasn’t for another year until the amendment passed. Wilsons’ speech addressed a woman’s worth. With the president’s realization, encouraged many of the democratic votes to support the suffragists since he was such a strong public figure. A week later, on August 26, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby evaded both suffrage factions and signed the final proclamation certifying the Nineteenth Amendment in the privacy of his home. (Zahniser).The certification of the nineteenth amendment was a reflection of Alice’s hard work and success. As she unrolled the flag, she was applauded by men and women below, which represented the lifelong goal she had now achieved. The 36 stars on the flag represent the 36 states, the number that was crucial in the ratification of the 19th amendment in the US constitution. “In 1920, the 19th Amendment was ratified, giving women the right to vote. Paul believed the vote was just the first step in the quest for full equality. In 1922, she reorganized the NWP intending to eliminate all discrimination against women. In 1923, she wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, also known as the Lucretia Mott Amendment, and launched what would be a lifelong campaign to win full equality for women” (U.S. Department of the Interior). Alice paul’s beginning goal was to always complete gender equality. This shows how she carried success in this after many years of hard work. Alice paul’s consequences for her beliefs included being arrested seven times, hunger strikes involving 55-force-feeding situations, and lots of slander from those who did not support her mission. Alice Paul’s achievements were something that she had to consistently work towards, there was always a new problem for her to overcome. In terms of women’s rights and the 19th amendment, Alice had to rally together ⅔ majority of the votes to get women’s suffrage to pass. Although the battle for votes was a challenge, Paul persevered and continued to show commitment to the movement. Paul’s support from the NWP was very beneficial to her achievements, they were always there to help expand her platform and gather the attention of all of the parties. Alice Pauls’s fight for victory was long and hard, but she never gave up. She was not handed what she wanted the first time she demanded it, yet she kept persevering for the rights of women. Alice Paul’s use of demand with the NWP was very beneficial in leading her to victory. As she kept pushing for the results she wished for through protests, marches, and demonstrations, she drew attention to male voters that would later choose her side and lead her to victory state by state.
Section 3: Reflection
Several historians have studied Alice Paul and her footprint on the ratification of the 19th amendment. In order to collect detailed, accurate information, these historians needed to collect a variety of sources to piece together. The actions were taken by Alice Paul and the NWP were what drove women to success during the American Woman’s Suffrage movement. As studied by historians, Alice’s unrelenting attitude is what led the NWP to fight for their right to vote. My investigation led me to understand that a limitation of this method is that some information is unreliable. The reliability of a source can be tested by looking at the content, bias, evidence provided, and authors’ credentials. When conducting my research, I had to deeply evaluate every source to ensure I was collecting reliable information.
Bias is the process of expressing an opinion without any investigation of the other biases, while selection would be selecting an opinion following research on both sides. This applied to my topic because it’s easy to have a bias when conducting research about women’s suffrage issues if you are a woman yourself. Male historians, on the other hand, might be more willing to discover both sides before deciding their opinion. My topic is historically significant because if it wasn’t for Alice Paul and the NWP, women would still be unable to vote, and contribute to our society. Historical significance is determined by historians after completely evaluating a source or topic. The role of a historian is to evaluate sources and understand the historical significance of each event. I was able to step into this role by collecting a variety of sources and assessing the reliability and content of each source. It is difficult to establish proof in history because the information is dispersed in a variety of ways (ex: films, biographies, letters, books, interviews, etc.) While conducting my research, I often found it more reliable to collect information from interviews and letters because I was aware that the information was coming primarily from Alice Paul herself. If you are looking at a primary source, it is more likely to be reliable than if you are looking at a secondary source. Not all versions will be equally acceptable because the content can be interpreted differently.
Consequently, this investigation has pushed me to understand that it is very important to investigate the reliability of a source before using it so you don’t include undependable information in your own writing.
- “Alice Paul.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, https://www.nps.gov/bepa/learn/alice-paul.htm.
- Archives.gov. (2015). Featured Document: The 19th Amendment. [online] Available at: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/amendment_19/ [Accessed 27 Jan. 2015].
- HBO Films presents ; a Spring Creek production ; directed by Katja von Garnier ; screenplay by Sally Robinson … [and others] ; story by Jennifer Friedes. Iron Jawed Angels. New York, NY :HBO Video, 2004.
- Monroe, Judy. The Nineteenth Amendment: Women’s Right to Vote. Enslow, 1998.
- Strom, Sharon Hartman. Women’s Rights. Greenwood Press, 2003.
- ‘ The Woman’s Party in the 1930s Inequalities of the Depression.’ Calisphere, University of California, 2011, content.cdlib.org/view?docId=kt6f59n89c;NAAN=13030&doc.view=frames&chunk.id=d0e22158&toc.depth=1&toc.id=d0e22158&brand=calisphere.
- Zahniser, Jill Diane, and Amelia R. Fry. Alice Paul : Claiming Power. Oxford University Press, 2014.