Alice Paul: Tortured/Beaten (Women’s History Month)

On November 1917, Dr. Alice Paul and her fellow suffragists were beaten and tortured for seeking the right to vote. These courageous women experienced unbelievable terror at Occoquan Prison on November 14, 1917 known as “The Night of Terror. They were force fed food through tubes that was infested with roaches, insects, maggots, and traces of rodents. The only crime these women committed, to receive this inhumane torture, was ask for the right to vote in America.

Who was Dr. Alice Paul?

Dr. Alice Paul was the leader of these brave women. She was born on January 11, 1885 and died on July 9, 1977. She was a Quaker, highly educated, an American feminist, suffragist and one of the key people who orchestrated the campaign to pass the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, women’s right to vote.

Alice Paul founded the Woman’s Party in 1916 to pass the 19th Amendment. She was a brilliant strategist. Paul’s strategy for passing this amendment was civil disobedience. Paul was arrested seven times and imprisoned three times. She traveled to Europe to learn the tactics of civil disobedience from the suffragettes there. Her mentor was Emmeline Pankhurst. She learned that civil disobedience gathered quite a bit of press and exposure to the public.

After the American public learned about the “Night of Terror,” they were outraged. This horrible event helped gather public support for the movement giving women the right to vote. After many years of tireless work, sacrifice, suffering, perseverance, arrests and imprisonments, the 19th Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920.

A great read is A Biography of Alice Paul, A Woman’s Crusade, by Mary Walton.