Daniel Walker, a CAPA London Student Affairs Assistant, shares his knowledge of American History in London in a weekly CAPA World column.
This week, Daniel looks back on the life and work of Alice Paul in making greater strides toward equality for women both in the US and UK.
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It is to the substantial discredit of humankind that the struggle for gender equality persists in our time. That a little over half of all people are still arbitrarily disenfranchised in copious ways is a quite baffling feature of even our so-called advanced societies. Nonetheless, opposition to this discrimination is more widespread and dogged than ever before. Advancements in communications technology in the past few decades have given more women a platform to struggle and organize, and have provided the movement increased internationality and broader appeal. In its nascence, however, the women’s rights movement was more restricted by geography. For this reason, it is remarkable that the British and American movements developed in similar ways and roughly in tandem. It was largely thanks to a remarkable woman, and her name was Alice Paul.
First, it is worth noting that the landscapes in the United States and in Britain in the early 1900s were not, by any means, identical. The key issue being contested by women’s organizations was women’s suffrage in both cases. Race and class dynamics, though, were completely different on either side of the Atlantic—race being a definitive part of everyday life in America, class in Britain. There is more, of course. But the similarity in question refers to the organization and tactics used in the respective pushes for women’s suffrage.
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Image: Cover to the program for the 1913 Womens Suffrage Procession, which Alice Paul organized (public domain)