Wednesday, November 25, 2020

ALICE PAUL, CLAIMING POWER



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.

18 comments:

  1. So nice to hear about books who talk about such great women. It is sad though that sometimes these stories are not as visible as they should be because the books that talk about them are not he best written ones.

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    1. You are so right in everything you say here!

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  2. Yeah I think the recent PBS film The Vote (Part 1 & 2) had some on Alice Paul ... though I only saw a little of it ... I need to go back & watch both parts! So important. Love to read & hear about the suffragists. She seems quite an interesting person with various sides. Hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.

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    1. And I need to watch The Vote! Happy Thanksgiving to you, the hubby and the dog.

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  3. This sounds great. You are right, we really should know Alice Paul and women like her who did so much for us today.

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    1. It is inspiring to know such women.

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  4. I started learning about who she was because you mentioned getting this book not long ago. The book is on my TBR now!

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    1. Of all my followers here, you will love this the most!

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  5. I heard her mentioned in passing a few times in various books. I think Emmeline Pankhurst met her. I added this book to my Wish List a few months back. I actually picked up a copy of 'The Woman's Hour - The Great Fight to Win the Vote' by Elaine Weiss which is about the fight to get the 19th Amendment ratified in Tennessee to get it passed into national law.

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    1. Alice Paul spent time in your country with Emmeline Pankhurst and learned from her. The Woman's Hour sounds good. I will have to look for it.

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  6. It's a good thing you mention that this book is dry and may be hard to get through but well worth every minute you spend on it. Stories like this are so necessary for everyone to read - they shouldn't be lost in obscurity, there's enough false and privileged information floating around that people forget how it used to be once upon a time.

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    1. Most of my reading group struggled to get through the book but all said they were so glad they had read it. I wonder if any schools these days include the 19th amendment story in their curriculum.

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  7. This has been on my TBR since it first came out! Now you really make me want to read it!

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  8. I admit I did not know who Alice Paul was either, but I am very glad to make her acquaintance through your review of this book, which sounds fascinating.

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    1. About a decade or so ago I started reading about the early 19th century feminists. I guess I thought I knew it all. I am so happy my reading group steered me this way. Especially after this last election, it is great to know how we did finally get that right to vote!

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  9. Like you, Judy, I didn't know who Alice Paul was either. Great review and thanks for highlighting an important figure in women's history.

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    1. Well, there you go. Spreading the word about an undersung heroine.

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