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She Grew Up to be a Hero for Women

Alice Paul helped American women win the right to vote in elections.

When Alice Paul was growing up in the 1890s, something bothered her. Her parents had taught her that all people were equal. But Paul saw that women did not have the same rights as men. In most of the United States, women weren’t allowed to vote in elections for government leaders.

As she got older, Paul worked to change that, and she helped American women win the right to vote.

Where It Began

Paul was born in New Jersey in 1885. Her family belonged to a religious group called the Quakers. Members believed that men and women were equals.

Like a growing number of women, Paul’s mom thought that women deserved suffrage, or the right to vote. She took Paul to meetings where women talked about how to win this right. These meetings inspired Paul.

After college, Paul joined the fight for suffrage and became one of its leaders. She gave speeches and wrote to lawmakers. In 1913, she led a parade in Washington, D.C. Thousands of women marched to demand suffrage. Angry onlookers yelled, but the marchers didn’t stop.

Winning the Vote

In 1917, Paul dared to do something no one had done before. She led a big protest outside the White House. For eight hours a day, women stood outside the president’s home, holding signs.

Police began to arrest the women. Although they were standing quietly on the sidewalk, the women were charged with blocking traffic. Paul was thrown in a dirty jail cell. She was served food crawling with bugs.

All the women were released after a few weeks. But they could no longer be ignored. Feeling pressured, President Woodrow Wilson said he’d support suffrage.

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was finally approved in 1920, one hundred years ago. It gave all women in the U.S. the right to vote.

“Alice Paul believed that one person can make a difference,” says Krista Niles. She works at the Alice Paul Institute in New Jersey. “It comes down to courage.”

  1. What are the three requirements for becoming the president of the U.S.?
  2. Summarize the steps Paul took to gain voting rights.
  3. Which examples support the idea that Paul was courageous?

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