Today, the House of Representatives approved legislation introduced by Congressman Joe Baca (D-Rialto) that awards the Congressional Gold Medal to Alice Paul in recognition of her role in the women's suffrage movement and in advancing equal rights for women. The Alice Paul Women's Suffrage Congressional Gold Medal Act, H.R. 406, officially recognizes Paul's role in the women's suffrage movement and in advancing equal rights for women and was approved by a 412 - 1 vote.
"Alice Paul was a remarkable person who made America more democratic by fighting for equal rights and creating opportunities for women to participate in politics. Even after her death, her influence continues to be significant on our society and culture," said Rep. Baca. "The courageous actions of Alice Paul helped to break the glass ceiling and pave the way for minorities and women in public office. We would not have our first ever female Speaker of the House, or a female running for the Presidency of the United States if it had not been for the precedent she and other suffragists helped set."
Rep. Baca first introduced legislation to award Alice Paul the Congressional Gold Medal in 2005. The legislation has garnered near unanimous, bipartisan support with 406 Congressional co-sponsors. This is the most co-sponsor support in history for any Congressional Gold Medal act. The National Council of Women's Organizations, the Alice Paul Institute, the National Woman's Party/Sewall-Belmont House and Museum, the League of Women Voters, MANA, 4ERA and the National Organization of Women (NOW) also supported the Act.
NOW President Kim Gandy said, "The National Organization for Women salutes the work of Representative Joe Baca as he gathered 406 bipartisan sponsors for H.R. 406. This long overdue honor recognizes Alice Paul as one of the great women in history for her work to promote women's rights, freedom and equality."
"Alice Paul's legacy and leadership on women's rights issues have left an indelible mark on American history," added Mary G. Wilson, national president of the League of Women Voters. "The League is pleased that Representative Baca is honoring Paul's contributions to women's voting rights and the ERA through H.R. 406, the Alice Paul Women's Suffrage Congressional Gold Medal Act."
MANA president and CEO said, ". . . there is an obvious need to reinforce and promote Alice Paul's efforts to gain equal rights for women. For that reason, I am particularly proud of Congressman Joe Baca's leadership efforts to recognize Alice Paul because as a Hispanic, he helps bring focus to the even more extreme struggle for Latinas in today's society."
Rhonda DaMascio, the Executive Director of the Alice Paul Institute, said, "Thank you for recognizing Alice Paul with the Congressional Gold Medal--few individuals have had as much impact on American history as has Alice Paul. Her life symbolizes the long struggle for justice in the United States and around the world. This award will bring an increased awareness of who Alice Paul was and serve as an inspiration to young men and women across the country who are working hard to make a positive change in society."
Kimberly Otis, executive director of the National Council of Women's Organizations, said, "The NCWO is most grateful to the more than 400 Members of the House of Representatives and Congressman Joe Baca for recognizing Alice Paul with a Congressional Gold Medal for championing women's right to vote and equal rights. While most Americans believe that We the People' includes both women and men, in fact women are still not included as equals in our nation's Constitution. It is time to finally pass the ERA, 85 years after Ms. Paul wrote this long overdue amendment to protect and promote the rights of all women and men."
Audrey Sheppard, president of the National Woman's Party/Sewall-Belmont House, said, "It is overdue that Alice Paul receive recognition for gaining American women the vote, and other essential rights. Thanks to Congressman Baca and the bill's cosponsors, a critical step will be taken to write this woman who we all owe so much into the history books."
Alice Paul spearheaded the effort to pass the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting all American women the right to vote. Her courage inspired thousands of women to join the women's suffrage movement. She was among the first group to ever picket the White House and later embarked on a three-week hunger strike with her fellow suffragists when they were arrested for their cause.
Alice Paul did not stop working for women's rights after the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. She drafted the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923 and fought tirelessly for its passage until her death in 1977. Paul also successfully lobbied Congress to include prohibitions on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
"Those of us who already know of Alice Paul's contributions are eager to bring greater awareness and appropriate recognition of her legacy," concluded Rep. Baca. "The American public knows far too little about her. Hopefully this Act will increase awareness of her achievements and more schools will teach students about her struggles and successes in expanding equality and opportunity."
Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has introduced a Senate counter part bill to H.R. 406, S. 826. If the Senate passes this bill, the legislation would then move to the President's desk to await his signature into law.
"The America we know today would not have been possible without Alice Paul, who dedicated her life to protecting America's democracy and paved the way for a freer, more equal America by securing suffrage and equal rights for all women," said Senator Menendez. "She is an American hero, an outstanding daughter of New Jersey, and it is a fitting and overdue honor to bestow her with the Congressional Gold Medal. I am delighted the bill passed the House, and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the Senate to get this approved."