Alice Paul: Claiming Power

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Alice Paul has long been an elusive figure in the political history of American women. This biography of Paul's early years and suffrage leadership offers fresh insight into her private persona and public image. Here, for the first time, the authors examine the sources of Paul's ambition and the growth of her political consciousness. They substantially revise our understanding about Paul's engagement with suffrage activism and later emergence onto the American scene. Paul's Quaker upbringing, long seen as the spark for her commitment to women's rights, is shown here as necessary, but not sufficient to motivate her later devotion to the equality of women. However, her childhood among the Friends did forge crucial aspects of Paul's selfhood. Her political zeal developed out of years of education and exploration, notably her involvement with the infamous British suffragists, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst. The authors demonstrate how Paul's work for the Pankhursts honed her instincts and skills. They identify Paul's sense of historical moment as vital to her embrace of a leadership role, a decision which largely subsumed her private with her public life. As a leader, Alice Paul wedded courage, resourcefulness and self-mastery. In 1913, she reinvigorated the American campaign for a constitutional suffrage amendment by capturing the suffrage narrative and, in the next seven years, dominated that campaign and drove it to victory with bold, controversial action. The book analyzes Paul's charisma and leadership qualities, highlighting her dealings with her most important political adversaries, Woodrow Wilson and rival suffrage leader Carrie Chapman Catt. Paul's leadership style both energized and frustrated allies and opponents, as well as historians. This biography applies new research to the persistent questions about Alice Paul and her legacy.