Alice Paul, Claiming Power, J D Zahinser & Amelia R Fry, Oxford University Press, 2014, 702 pp
Embarrassing as it is, I had never heard of Alice Paul before. I read this for the October meeting of The Bookie Babes reading group. It was tough getting through the book but I don't regret the time spent. Now I know that Alice Paul was the key person who got American women the right to vote in every state by pushing until the 19th Amendment was passed, ratified and adopted on August 26, 1920.
Alice Paul was born and raised Quaker in New Jersey. The book covers her entire life, her thirst for knowledge, her struggle for equal rights for women, and the incredibly strong purpose she found within herself.
Due to a dry, scholarly tone, the book was at time dull, but I am forever grateful to my reading group for choosing to read it as well as to J D Zahniser and Amelia R Fry for all their hard work to ensure the full story got told.
I knew about Susan B Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. It took 80 years for what they and many, many other women started to become Constitutional Law. To paraphrase Ruth Bader Ginsburg, if you change the law you change society. Changing laws is a long hard process. Ask any woman, any person of color, any immigrant.
Still, injustice and inequality can be put right as long as we who see the need for change do not give up, as long as we recognize how slowly that change comes and how many setbacks need to be overcome.
I will never be as focused, as brave, as full of purpose as Alice Paul was, but I have gotten to know another role model and heroine to inspire me and keep me on my own path.
Since finishing the book, I have watched the feature film, Iron Jawed Angels. It was OK but had I not read this book, the movie would have had much less impact. Hilary Swank portrayed Alice Paul as a little too fluffy. The book give you all sides of her. Like any human being, she had many sides. Her strengths outweighed her weaknesses so definitively that she was able to channel the work of perhaps millions of women who have fought for our rights.
If you can take it, I urge you, whether you are male or female or anywhere on that spectrum to read this book.