Votes for Women: The Struggle for Suffrage Revisited

By Jean H. Baker | Go to book overview
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Perhaps contradictorily, Alice Paul thought nonviolent militancy was suited to woman's peaceable nature, but she also believed women must be militant—determined and aggressive—in pursuit of political rights. As militants, the feminists of the NWP stepped out of their prescribed roles by fighting their own battles to gain power. This struggle appealed to many women, including not only an upper-class elite or even middle-class elite but also working-class and leftist women. The consequences of the women's demonstrations were arrest and imprisonment, but the women picketers decided that it was well worth the hardship since it led to the success of their cause. So much valuable publicity for suffrage was generated by NWP tactics that, together with NAWSA's continuing massive lobbying efforts, Woman's Party efforts have to be given a great deal of credit for the eventual congressional passage of the woman suffrage amendment in 1919. Woman's Party militancy is significant in the history of nonviolent resistance and the feminist rights struggle, not only because it was the first example of an American use of organized nonviolence, but also because the Woman's Party campaign worked.

Ida Husted Harper, The Life and Work of Susan B. Anthony (Indianapolis: Bowen and Merrill, 1898), 654, 678, 683, 945.
New York Times, July 12, 1917, 11; Martin to James and E. M. Garrett, July 9, 1917, Reel 45 of the National Woman's Party Papers on Microfilm (Wilmington, Del.: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1979), hereafter NWPP; The Suffragist (the NWP's journal), July 21, 1917, 9; Hazel Hunkins Hallinan, “A Talk to the Woman's Press Club,” Washington, D.C., August 23, 1977, transcribed by Angela Ward, Bancroft Library Oral History of Suffragists Project, University of California, 5; for full explication of militancy and its significance, see the author's Iron-Jawed Angels: The Suffrage Militancy of the National Woman's Party (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1991).
See Judith Stiehm, Non-Violent Power: Active and Passive Resistance in America (Lexington, Mass.: D.C. Heath, 1972), 60–62, describes how nonviolent resistance occurs in groups committed to social justice who have been pushed too far.
Amelia Fry, Interview with Alice Paul, 1972–73, “Woman Suffrage and the Equal Rights Amendment,” Bancroft Oral History Project, 17–19.
See Ellen DuBois, Feminism and Suffrage (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1978); Harper, Life and Work, 954; Doris Stevens, Jailed for Freedom (1920; reprint, New York: Schocken Books, 1976), 8.


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