Block Seven: Alice’s Flag

I really enjoy fussy cutting, but I may have pushed the envelope a little far today – the pattern was too irregular for cutting five repeated segments.

A couple of the motifs turned out well, others have a squashed look.  The points aren’t exactly sharp and it does wobble a bit, but lucky for me, little flaws like these will quilt out.

No matter how long you’ve been quilting, it continues to be a learning process – and I’m happy enough with the block that I won’t cry “do-over”.

Alice Stokes Paul (Or – Where Did I Hide That Soapbox?)

Today, Barbara Brackman reintroduced me to Alice Paul (b. January 11, 1885 – d. July 9, 1977).  Intrigued, I started exploring further and discovered that Alice Paul was an extremely well educated woman: a BA in Biology at Swarthmore College, an MA in Sociology and a PhD in Economics from the University of Pennsylvania – not stopping there, she earned an LLB from the Washington College of Law at the American University, Washington, DC – zowie!

Alice Stokes Paul, circa 1901

Alice Paul got her chops in activism working alongside Emmeline Pankhurst and other women that caused controversy up, down, and across England, using militant tactics to further awareness of the suffrage movement and secure the vote for women.

Oh yeah, we’re talking seriously dedicated suffragettes here.

Returning to the US, Paul joined the National American Woman Suffrage Association, but when her tactics started to create tension among the leaders, she and that organization parted ways.  With the help of a few of her colleagues and funding from Alva Belmont – a multi-millionaire and socialite – the National Women’s Party was formed.

Mr. President How Long Must Women Wait for Liberty?

The NWP began an active campaign of non-violent protest, and on January 10, 1917 they moved the action to the White House.  Alice Paul and a dozen other protesters simply held banners stating their demand to the right to vote – these women became known as Silent Sentinels.  The picketing lasted until June 4, 1919 when a joint resolution of Congress passed the 19th Amendment.

They picketed for two and a half years.  In all weather.  All day.  All night.  Every day except for Sunday.

Silent Sentinels – National Women’s Party picketers outside the White House

During that time Alice Paul and other Silent Sentinels were assaulted, arrested, convicted and imprisoned at the Occoquan Workhouse in Virginia.  Alice Paul was sentenced to seven months, and for two weeks she was held in solitary confinement on a diet of bread and water.  When too weak to walk, she was removed to the prison hospital where she began a hunger strike.  Others joined her.

By her refusal to eat, and afraid she might die, doctors prescribed a program of mandatory feedings – three times a day for three weeks a tube was forced down her throat.  I suppose a diet of raw eggs and milk would keep a person alive.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch… the assault on the Silent Sentinels continued inside the Occoquan Workhouse.  Guards brutalized the women – they were dragged, beaten, kicked and choked.  Newspapers began to report the treatment of the protesters which helped to create more support for the suffrage movement.

Wasn’t this an ugly piece of American history that we were never taught in school?

Alice Paul survived imprisonment – she served her sentence, and on release resumed the fight for women’s rights.

It is incredible to me that any woman should consider the fight for full equality won. It has just begun. There is hardly a field, economic or political, in which the natural and unaccustomed policy is not to ignore women…Unless women are prepared to fight politically they must be content to be ignored politically. — Alice Paul, 1920

Alice Paul celebrating the ratification of the 19th Amendment – August 18, 1920.

Here are some sources that I found interesting:

The Alice Paul Institute

The Sewall-Belmont House Museum

Jailed For Freedom by Doris Stevens

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2 thoughts on “Block Seven: Alice’s Flag

  1. jgp60

    I like the star, I think your fussy cutting has turned out well. Interesting history too – I was admiring the strength and perseverance of the women picketing for so long, and that was before I read about the assaults and arrests!

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    1. jotokla Post author

      Thanks – I’m so glad that you enjoyed both this week’s block and the story behind it!

      While I’ve always thought of myself a strong woman, I’m humbled when I read about women like Alice Paul. The complete conviction, determination, and grit just blows my mind, every time.

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