Alice Paul and the Fight for Women's Rights

Alice Paul and the Fight for Women's Rights
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Release Date
February 28, 2017
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Here is the story of extraordinary leader Alice Paul, from the woman suffrage movement—the long struggle for votes for women—to the “second wave,” when women demanded full equality with men. Paul made a significant impact on both. She reignited the sleepy suffrage moment with dramatic demonstrations and provocative banners. After women won the vote in 1920, Paul wrote the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which would make all the laws that discriminated against women unconstitutional. Passage of the ERA became the rallying cry of a new movement of young women in the 1960s and ’70s. Paul saw another chance to advance women’s rights when the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 began moving through Congress. She set in motion the “sex amendment,” which remains a crucial legal tool for helping women fight discrimination in the workplace. Includes archival images, author’s note, bibliography, and source notes.

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In this very timely book, the story of Alice Paul's life is interwoven with the women's movement in the same way that Paul's life was interwoven with her work. Giving just the right amount of information about Paul's early life, Kops paints a colorful picture of a driven and pioneering woman who saw an injustice and dedicated herself to righting it. The most amazing thing to me was that Paul was just slightly older than my grandmother, but managed to graduate from college and eventually earned a Masters degree as well as a PhD in sociology AND a law degree. She spent time in England working with Emmeline Pankhurst, and spent a lot of time in jail for her outspoken and often violent protests. Returning to the US, she threw herself tirelessly into working for women's suffrage in the US. Paul devoted her entire life to women's issues, starting work on the Equal Rights Amendment in 1925! She passed away on July 9, 1977-- my 12th birthday.
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I learned a tremendous amount about women's history from this book. I had no idea that the ERA had been in the works for so long, or the reasons behind some women's opposition to the amendment. Another very important piece of information of which I was unaware was the addition of the "sex amendment" to Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. While this was helpful in putting into legislation some protection for women, it also did not help the cause of the ERA.

While this book might be a bit long for the average middle school reader to pick up for pleasure reading, it is an essential purchase for History Day projects as well as for readers who are dedicated to learning more about women's rights. It is both entertaining and informative, and a great companion to Blumenthal's Let Me Play, Macy's Wheels of Change: How Women Rode the Bicycle to Freedom (With a Few Flat Tires Along the Way) and other works that help budding feminists understand that while we have come a long way (baby), there is still a long way to go.
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