HACKENSACK, N.J. -- The fight for women's rights is almost as old as our country, but the women who've led the way aren't always recognized.
So state Sen. Diane Allen is urging Congress to honor one of the state's own women's rights heroes, New Jersey native Alice Paul.
Allen is sponsoring a resolution to posthumously award the Congressional Gold Medal to Paul in recognition of her role in the women’s suffrage movement and in advancing equal rights for women.
“Alice Paul is a national hero and someone whom I’ve always admired,” the Burlington County Republican said. “She fought tirelessly her entire life to secure equal rights for women. Her legacy is something we treasure here in New Jersey, and I hope Congress sees that it is something worth honoring.”
Paul, the founder of the National Woman's Party, and one of the women who will be on the new $10 bill, was born in 1885 in Mount Laurel to a prominent Quaker family, and became a leader in the women’s suffrage movement in the early 1900s.
Through her decades of activism, she picketed the White House and the U.S. Capitol, in an effort to help win suffrage for women and was a key player in the passage of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote in 1920.
Once women won the right to vote, Paul continued to work to achieve equality. In 1923 she authored an amendment that would later be named the “Equal Rights Amendment," which also became known as the "Alice Paul Amendment," sadly, still has yet to be ratified, Allen said.
Paul, a Ridgefield, Conn., resident during the last years of her life, continued to be a vocal leader in the women’s equality movement until her death in 1977, helping to draft more than 600 pieces of legislation through the National Woman's Party. She was arrested seven times, thrown in jail three times and was force-fed in prison when she refused to eat.
Her legacy lives on at her family’s home in the 7th District, in Mount Laurel, which now serves as the headquarters for the Alice Paul Institute, a not-for-profit organization that works to fulfill her lifelong dream of equality for women with special emphasis on developing future female leaders. She is also a member of the Connecticut Women's Hall of Fame, and the New Jersey Hall of Fame, which she was inducted into in 2010.
“Alice Paul is one of the most accomplished residents in the history of New Jersey, man or woman,” Allen said. “Being able to say she’s from my state, and the district I am privileged to represent, is a huge source of personal pride, and I know there are many more who feel the same. Her leadership and courage continue to be a driving force in the women’s rights movement in this state and beyond.”
Allen's proposal this week was approved by the state Senate's Government, Wagering, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee. It would have to be adopted by both the full Senate and the state Assembly.
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