Suffragists Invented Modern Tactics?

Mary Walton’s recent book, A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot, has been introducing many people to the woman’s suffrage movement. In the mid-1990s, Walton had never heard of Alice Paul when her editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer suggested that she write a book on Paul and her contribution to American history. In the conclusion to her book, Walton noted: “The legal precedents set by the Woman’s Party protected later generations who took their protests for civil rights, an end to the Vietnam  War, and other causes to the streets, sidewalks and parks around the White House and the Capitol. But more than that, Paul and her party virtually invented the modern tactics of nonviolent civil disobedience that those later protestors would use.”

It might be exaggerating the point to say that the suffragists “invented” modern tactics, but they certainly stretched the boundaries of actions commonly associated with civil disobedience.

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