Exploring the Social Imagination

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Alice Paul and her ERA ~ A Problem for the Social Imagination?

Alice Paul announced at the 75th anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, July 1, 1923 that she planned on promoting and initiating an amendment to the United States Constitution that would give the same rights to men and women. 

She believed that the 19th Amendment would not be Enough to ensure that men and women were treated equally regardless of sex. Hence, she proposed the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) which states that the rights guaranteed by the Constitution apply equally to all persons regardless of their sex. The clarity that Paul demanded in the document was always there. She just couldn't see it. 

She did not believe that the Founding Fathers were educated and enlightened men who wrote an incredible masterpiece to act as a representative of mankind which included (s) women; in fact all people under its authority. It is obvious that they and the document included women as one can read the remarkable for those times reference to 'persons' repeated effectively throughout. The document stands to represent women as much as men. One may ask then why the need of the 19th or even the 15th Amendment which gives the right to vote to persons of race/color and or other condition of servitude. 

That is a good question and the answer is the same, the document 'The Constitution of the United States' does apply to all people and did. But, some people, mostly elites, failed and still fail to recognize its authority. The document stands, the society fails. It is society and or culture that dictate what is recognized and who gets advantages and who does not. Human beings are not inherently good. They naturally socially set themselves apart from each other and whether some disagree or not that is for purpose if we are to call any group of people a society. 

Humans did, they do and they will continue to socially set themselves apart. They do it first basing on obvious physical differences, skin color, gender, clothes, hair styles, makeup, jobs, education, houses, cars, hats, dogs and cats...etc. We do it to establish amongst ourselves who we are and are not.
Besides that, social interaction is dependent upon social dynamics of give and take. Join a club and learn about it... any club or group or org.  The problem between the haves and have nots or the who gets what or gets to do something and who does not is more about the give and take in social interaction than anything else.  Certainly, you can have more clout than others depending on your social status.  From a bird's eye view, we can see that the elites have the control. 

Looking at Alice Paul's background, I can say she most certainly never identified with impoverished or struggling women in her times. As she certainly accomplished much regarding her higher education. She went to Swarthmore College in 1901, an institution co-founded by her grandfather. While attending Swarthmore, Paul served as a member on the Executive Board of Student Government, one experience which may have sparked her eventual excitement for political activism. Alice graduated from Swarthmore College with a bachelor's degree in Biology in 1905.

Paul then earned her M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1907, after completing coursework in political science, sociology and economics.  She continued her studies at the in Birmingham, England, and took Economics classed from the University of Birmingham, while continuing to earn money doing social work. After returning from England in 1910, Paul continued her studies at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a Ph.D. in sociology years before the suffrage movement. Paul later received her law degree (LL.B) from the Washington College of Law at American University in 1922, after the suffrage fight was over. In 1927, she earned an L.L.M, and in 1928, a Doctorate in Civil Laws from American University.

For those times, it does not appear that Alice Paul met many set backs regarding her education. One can even notice a few of those degrees obtained even before the suffrage movement. Her endeavor in that regard noble.  However, regarding the Constitution, she had no clue what she was looking at.

As for freedom for women, there is no evidence that women were slaves anymore than many men who were not of the elite class. What's my gripe? Treat people fairly if you really want equality... not special treatment for one group over another; read the Constitution!

And, what about the ERA... that should've / should solve the problem for everyone right??? Especially, if we are talking about people as 'persons'...again, read the Constitution which already states the Freedom of the People very clearly. The document stands! Society fails!


  1. Its not that Paul's cause was unworthy... it was unnecessary as the Constitution was clearly referring to persons. The so called need for the ERA lies on the fault of all of society not abiding by it. Can you make a law that makes society behave? No, there is always a way for society to misbehave...it finds a way. If you force society to behave you won't have a human society any more.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. The point made was that the document "US Constitution" stands forthright; the people that attempt to use are flawed!

  4. The point made was that the document "US Constitution" stands forthright; the people that attempt to use it are flawed!