This summer I interned at the Alice Paul Institute (API) in my hometown of Mount Laurel, New Jersey. API is set up at the exact house, known as Paulsdale, where Alice Paul was born and returned to during her days of campaigning for women’s suffrage in the early twentieth century.
For those who are unfamiliar with Alice Paul’s story, she was a strong leader in the fight to get the Nineteenth Amendment passed which granted women the right to vote, implemented on August 26, 1920. August 26 is known as Women’s Equality Day today to commemorate this achievement. Paul was born in 1885 and grew up believing in equality for everyone due to her Quaker faith and attending Quaker meetings with her mom during her childhood. In 1910 she traveled to England and was introduced to radical suffragette techniques, which sparked her passion for fighting for women’s rights even more. After splitting with the National American Woman’s Suffrage Association (NAWSA), Paul formed the National Woman’s Party dedicated solely to getting a Constitutional amendment passed that would grant women the right to vote. On March 3, 1913, she and thousands of suffragists marched down Pennsylvania Avenue to draw the crowd away from President Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration. In 1917 she organized a group of women nicknamed the “Silent Sentinels” to stand outside the White House with pickets, mocking President Wilson’s words promoting democracy in the face of World War I. After the Nineteenth Amendment passed in 1920, Alice Paul penned the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that would grant equal rights to all regardless of sex; it has still not been ratified.
The Alice Paul Institute seeks to educate and empower young girls in the local community through leadership programs. Girls can join the Girls Advisory Council or Lead-a-Way to help them develop public speaking skills and work as a team with their peers. Paulsdale also houses a museum exhibit on the first floor where visitors can come and explore any time. I served as the museum assistant and welcomed visitors, answering their questions about Alice Paul’s life and discussing what more can be done today to help pass the ERA. I loved interacting with the people from my local community and even some who had traveled far distances to visit Paulsdale. As an intern I also developed social media posts promoting New Jersey’s Women’s Heritage Trail, which is a list of sites around the state that are dedicated to preserving or celebrating women’s history in some way.
I am still stunned that the famous Alice Paul lived in my hometown during her childhood and visited often during her tireless campaign struggles. Sitting on the second floor of Paul’s house, working on projects to empower young girls, and feeling the history of the home around me inspires me to never give up the fight for equality and continue to empower women.
Written by Angelica Mishra ’19, WGRC student worker and Secretary of the Dickinson College AAUW chapter