Blunt-speaking, no-nonsense Alice Paul was born into a Quaker family in New Jersey. Her many areas of studies and earned degrees included a BA in Biology from Swarthmore, studies in social work at the New York School of Philanthropy (now the Columbia University Graduate School of Social Work) and the University of Birmingham. She learned economics and political science at the London School of Economics, and received an MA in Sociology and a PhD in economics, both from the University of Pennsylvania; all while working for suffrage. Paul later went to law school in order to learn strategy, earning first a Bachelor of Legal Letters, followed by a Master of Legal Letters and finally, a Doctor of Civil Law, all from American University. Inspired by Britain’s Christabel Pankhurst to speak out for women’s right to vote, Paul joined the fight for suffrage in Great Britain, returned home to work with the National American Woman Suffrage Association, founded the National Woman’s Party, campaigned against President Wilson’s refusal to support woman suffrage, went on hunger strikes and was jailed in order to secure the 19th Amendment. When that passed, in 1920, Alice Paul wrote and worked for the Equal Rights Amendment, introducing the bill in 1923. The ERA has been introduced to Congress every session since 1982, but has never gotten out of committee.
Ideally cast as the educated, beautiful Welsh-American legal scholar and activist, Taylor Williams takes up the standard of Alice Paul. The two women both studied extensively, studied law and have lived lives dedicated to protecting civil rights. Ms. Williams presents Alice Paul as a woman with tunnel vision, eschewing heated rooms because they would tempt her to read a novel. Taylor Williams explains the simple idea behind the Equal Rights Amendment: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Ms. Williams demystifies the concept, as well as its nonratification. Crediting Ms. Paul as a supreme strategist who revitalized the suffrage movement, Ms. Williams brings to life the all-too-human woman willing to be classified a political prisoner and endure force feedings in order to elicit the public outrage that would eventually convince a nation that women deserve the vote. When Alice Paul was asked why she persevered so single-mindedly, Paul quoted her father, “When you put your hand to the plow, you can’t set it down until you get to the end of the row.” Taylor Williams would remind us that we haven’t yet finished the row.
“Thanks you so much for the wonderful presentation that you provided in celebration of Women’s Equality Day…. Bringing “herstorical” figures to life is a most effective way to bring the struggle home to those of us who take those hard-won gains for granted.” -Federal Women’s Program, National Security Agency
“Ms. Williams was outstanding in an entertaining and educational performance that captured the complexities and achievements of such a devoted woman. Both the audience and the committee raved over the event.” -Women’s History Month Planning Committee, Smithsonian Institution Taylor Williams as Alice Paul: