Thank you, Chase Livingston
for showing us your magnificent banner
held by The Silent Sentinels.
Thank you, Virginia Blaisdell
for sharing your exquisite photo
Miss Alice Paul ~ taken June, 1976
A Dozen Do’s and Don’ts from Alice Paul
IN HER QUAKER DESIRE to "let her life speak," Alice Paul left no how-to manuals for political action.
But some of her strategy is implied from her correspondence, the oral histories, and her decisions.
As compiled by her primary biographer, Amelia Roberts Fry
1. DO NOT BE AFRAID OF CONTROVERSY. IT IS APATHY THAT KILLS MOST MOVEMENTS.
Paul's formula: endurance to keep the level of momentum high until victory. Publicize demands on the opposition incessantly, aim your outreach to educate people in different sectors, and organize public events in rapid, continuing succession, each with a fresh new emphasis.
2. HAVE ONLY ONE GOAL FOR YOUR ORGANIZATION.
Have unanimous consensus from officers and make the statement of a goal the sole requirement for membership. This wards off the frequent problem of organizations dividing into factions and splitting off members. For other goals, Alice Paul urged members to join those relevant societies also -- in today's language, networking.
3. DO NOT SPEND LARGE AMOUNTS OF BUDGET AND ENERGY TRYING TO BE A BIG ORGANIZATION. A SMALL ONE CAN MULTIPLY ITS INFLUENCE BY BRINGING TOGETHER THE TRULY INTERESTED FROM DIFFERENT SECTORS, WHO THEN CAN REACH OUT TO EDUCATE THEIR GROUPS TO YOUR OBJECTIVE.
By staying small, decisions can be made faster. By the time a decision is agreed upon in a large mass organization, often the political situation has changed.
4. SEEK THE "LITTLE PEOPLE," THEN BUILD YOUR ACTIONS FROM EXISTING POWER SOURCES - -USING ANY STRINGS AVAILABLE.
Think well-placed relatives and friends of members? The states? A political party? Congress? The President? Allied groups? Paul believed in beginning membership efforts with persons of little "position or influence," not the "big and important people."
AN EXAMPLE: To a disheartened federal suffrage amendment organizer in Wyoming, where women had been enfranchised for nearly three decades, and where the "important people" of the women's clubs seemed not to be interested, Paul wrote that those people “never are, you know. It is the same situation everywhere, I think. When we came to Washington, for instance, and opened headquarters here we were told everything . . . that no one would give any money; that no one was interested in suffrage because this was a Congressional and Diplomatic city with no industrial or commercial population; that parades, open-air speaking, or demonstrations of any kind, would alienate the few who were interested, and so on. But we paid no attention to the big and important people, and began on a large and rousing demonstration, appealing for help to the ordinary middle class person of no position or influence. Invariably they respond. I think this is the experience of people everywhere." Paul suggested she begin with a house-to-house canvas.
(Paul to. Mrs. Gertrude Hunter, nwpp reel 13, fr 4, Oct 16, 1914.)
5. KNOW YOUR FACTS. HAVE AN ACTIVE RESEARCH ARM.
You need accurate data and previous models of what you are doing.
6. KEEP THE GOAL CONSTANTLY IN THE MEDIA. KEEP IT SIMPLE, AND BE CONSISTENT.
Even when Paul's initiatives were audacious and spectacular, the drama of an event did not distract from the main message but kept it front and center: first it was enfranchising women, followed by equal rights for men and women, both by amending the federal constitution
7. EVEN WHEN YOU EXPECT THE OPPOSITION TO KNIFE YOUR OBJECTIVE, TRY ANYWAY. IT HELPS EXPOSE THE SOURCE OF OPPOSITION, KEEPS THE ISSUE BEFORE THE PUBLIC, AND EDUCATES OTHERS.
Never say "Of course we know it cannot pass this year." You never really know what will happen in politics.
8. LOCATE THE CORE OPPOSITION, TARGET IT, AND HOLD IT PUBLICLY RESPONSIBLE FOR PASSAGE OR NON-PASSAGE.
AN EXAMPLE: Alice was one of the first organizers consistently to use a U.S. president as a prop for publicity and his opposition as a target. After her first few delegations to President Woodrow Wilson, her favorite uncle, Mickle Paul, questioned her wisdom, saying that she should instead be putting her energies into educating "the people," who are the supreme power. Paul answered that she was educating them, and: "I quite agree with what thee says concerning the advisability of bringing pressure to bear upon the President in this matter . . . . The purpose of these delegations in going to President Wilson was to impress upon him, if possible, the earnestness of the demand back of this movement and also to give as much publicity as possible to our agitation. The main object, of course, was the publicity. "I am grateful for the interest and sympathy which prompted thee to write. Affectionately, /s/Alice Paul.
(Paul to Uncle Mickle, March 31, 1913, tr 1, bx 1, nwpp, Library of Congress)
9. NEVER PUBLICLY ATTACK ANOTHER GROUP IN THE MOVEMENT. NEVER ANSWER THEIR ATTACKS ON YOU.
It uses energy best spent on your goal. And it wastes publicity.
10. BALANCE RISKS AGAINST GAINS: ADD CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE ONLY WHEN PRESSURE POLITICS PROVES CONTINUOUSLY INEFFECTIVE.
Even when most women did not have the basic political power of the ballot, Paul resisted using her famous “militancy” during four years conventional pressure to move the amendment in Congress. In the ensuing decades of the Equal Rights Amendment, she believed that in a new campaign the first challenge is to educate and gather allies before mounting the crusade. Consider: Today a jaded American public reduces the shock-and-change results of "civil disobedience." As for hunger striking, statistics show that with only a few exceptions, most hunger-strikers are now left to starve.
11. FINGER-POINT BUT DO NOT HUMILIATE YOUR OPPOSITION. EACH ACTION SHOULD BE AIMED WITH A WELL-DEFINED DEMAND AT A PRECISE TARGET.
Raise the level of guilt, yes. But humiliation can create a resistance to accepting your demand even when the desire to capitulate is there. An action should have one precise target the public can quickly understand-usually a concrete refusal or delay. Paul's most successful use of militancy: Each time Wilson failed to tell his majority in Congress to move the bill, Paul ratcheted up the drama of her next action and pin-pointed his exact refusal for the press.
12. VIOLENCE IS COUNTER-PRODUCTIVE.
Paul's nonviolent, passive resistance tactics built public outrage against those opposed to her cause. She saw how the British suffragettes' slashing and burning replaced "votes for women" as the public issue. In the U.S. the mob attacks on the silent "ladies" (incarnating virtue), their imprisonments and force-feeding, forced the government to move the bill.
Gift From Robert P.J. Cooney, Jr. author of Winning the Vote & Remembering Inez
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