By Community Affairs Reporter Cherri Gregg
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A local movement is brewing to award a U.S. Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor for a civilian, to one of the nation’s leaders in the woman’s suffrage movement.
Born in 1885 in Mount Laurel, Alice Paul was a warrior for women’s rights. A graduate of Swathmore, Paul had a Ph.D. from Penn, as well as a law degree, which was unusual for a woman during her time. She studied in the UK and when she returned to the U.S., she brought a new way of attacking equal rights. Paul founded the National Women’s Party in 1917 and helped secure the 19th Amendment using a new form of protest.
“They picketed in front of the White House; first time that was every done,” says Lucy Beard, executive director of the Alice Paul Institute. “They went to jail for that picketing and then they went on hunger strikes.”
Beard says Paul fought vigorously for gender equality until her death in 1977. She was instrumental in getting gender inserted in the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“To this day it’s the number one law in employment, for instance, to ensure that you are not discriminated against in the workplace,” says Beard.
Paul’s most prized piece of legislation was the Equal Rights Amendment. She worked for five decades, lobbying its passage.
“She lobbied Congress in 1923 to introduce it and it was introduced in every session of congress until it passed Congress and the Senate in 1972,” says Beard. “It did not get ratified in the required 10 years.”
Listen to Cherri’s entire interview with Lucienne Beard: