On January 11, 1884, a woman was born in Mount Laurel, New Jersey, who would rock the world. Her name was Alice Paul, and she not only wrote the Equal Rights Amendment, she was the most militant and dedicated of generations of women's rights activitists, who finally got the 19th Amendment passed in 1920, so American women could legally vote at last. In college, in England, Alice Paul learned from the British activists, far more militant tactics than the American suffragists were employing. Alice Paul formed a new women's political party and then organized, marched, picketed, was arrested many times, imprisoned, and went on hunger strikes. She organized a 5,000 woman march on the White House on the day of Woodrow Wilson's inauguration and made the battle for the vote personal by holding the administration in power responsible for denying American female citizens the right to vote. Alice Paul had a doctorate and three law degrees in a time not many women were able to go to college.
Paulsdale is a beautiful, three story, Georgian Revival farm house built in 1800 by Benjamin Hooten. The Paul family, Hicksite Quakers, moved into the house shortly thereafter and it remained in the Paul family until the death of Alice Paul's brother, William, in 1958. Hicksite Quakers practiced a life of simplicity, and believed in living in harmony with nature, out of the bustle of the commercial world. The next family, the Feyerherms, who lived in the house from 1960, agreed to sell the house to a group called the Alice Paul Cenntennial Foundation, headed by Barbara Irvine. This band of dedicated activists, who were originally organized to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Alice Paul's birth, held fundraisers featuring notables such as astronaut Sally Ride, and politician Shirley Chisholm, to name just a few, and mounted an effort to save the property when it was in danger of being bought by real estate developers in the 1980's. Eventually, with the help of several banks, a loan sufficient to the task was granted.
About two years ago, in August,the the mortgage was burned in effigy on the lawn on Women's Equality.
As a volunteer at the Paulsdale research library, on the third floor of Paulsdale, it was my great pleasure to attend the ceremony. An event is held at Paulsdale every year on Women's Equality Day. One of the featured speakers this past August, Mary Walton, has written an excellent new book called A Woman's Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot which you can buy on the internet for as low as $12.99. Mine was purchased at Paulsdale at the book signing and joins a growing shelf of signed first editions on New Jersey historic places.
You can call Paulsdale to arrange a tour. This past summer, I helped my fifteen year old nephew with his sophmore year, American history, summer research paper and I can attest to the fact that one of the pieces he wrote (his paper covered a dozen local history sites) featured Paulsdale and helped earn him an A. That day, we had also visited the grave of Peter J. Maguire, of Labor Day history, and many other fascinating local history sites, but that will be for another day!
In the meantime, Happy Birthday Alice, and Thank You!