“Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait? Alice Paul, Woodrow Wilson and THE FIGHT for the RIGHT TO VOTE” by Tina Cassidy was the first book in the Well-Read Citizen series being co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters and the Crawfordsville District Public Library as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of women receiving the right to vote. Cassidy penned this book in 2019 and has authored several other books in addition to being a journalist for the Boston Globe.
For most people, the name Alice Paul is not as recognizable as Susan B. Anthony or Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Paul held a doctorate degree, a law degree, as well as a master’s and undergraduate degree in economics and biology. Born in New Jersey in 1885, she was from a Quaker family who believed male and female children should be allowed the right to an education. They were staunch abolitionists and taught their children to embrace social justice.
Paul believed her purpose in life was to help others. Always curious, Paul went to England where she studied German, Italian, sociology and economics. She worked as a social worker in a settlement house and while working there, heard about women rallying trying to earn the right to vote. Anna Howard Shaw was speaking at a rally and said, “It’s impossible to be just to men, so long as men are incapable of being just to women.” It was with this alliance that Paul became a suffragette.
Cassidy does a superb job of counterbalancing Paul’s early life with that of Woodrow Wilson. Wilson grew up on a plantation in Georgia. Born in 1856, he remembered watching confederate soldiers march through town. His family owned slaves and his privileged upbringing allowed him to earn a doctorate degree from John Hopkins in political science. Wilson’s first teaching job was at Bryn Mawr. Mrs. Wilson discouraged him from taking the position because she felt nothing could be gained from teaching girls. Through a process of advancement, Wilson ended up President of Princeton. He authored several books including “Division and Reunion” which supported slavery.
By 1912, Wilson was moving to the White House as President and the inauguration was to be held March 1913. Wilson was perplexed because so few people were watching the inaugural parade. It was because Paul and Lucy Burns had spearheaded a suffrage parade. Interestingly, Wilson’s daughter Margaret was a proponent of women voting.
Much transpired in the next six years. Paul organized meetings with the President asking him to support women’s voting rights. When those meetings proved useless, Paul organized cross-country motorcades and protests outside the White House. When Paul and her colleagues were jailed, she declared a hunger strike. She was force fed with a tube through her nose to her stomach. That procedure itself left her with lifelong health issues. Paul was jailed numerous times, but was not deterred. Wilson did a good job of ignoring these facts, telling the press that the women imprisoned were treated like hotel guests. It was not until 1919 that the House and Senate passed the 19th amendment, granting women the right to vote. On Aug. 26, 1920, women were finally allowed the privilege to vote when 19th amendment was ratified by the necessary states. It took 72 years from Elisabeth Cady Stanton’s Declaration of Sentiment (Seneca Falls, New York in 1848) to enactment of the 19th amendment.
The book is a fascinating read, and this article only offers an introduction. We owe it to our community to be well read, and this book fills the bill. Other books coming up are “Soul of America” by Jon Meacham on Jan. 27, “Biography of Mae Wright Sewell” by Ray Boomhower on March 23 and “The Women’s Hour” by Elaine Weiss on May 18. These books are available at the CDPL. We invite all to come join the three discussions.
The League of Women Voters is a non-partisan, multi-issue political organization which encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase public understanding of major policy issues and influences policy through education and advocacy. For information about the League, visit the website at www. LWVmontcoin.org or send a message to LWV, P.O. Box 101, Crawfordsville, IN 47933.