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Women's suffrage leader, Alice Paul, should be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal

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Alice Paul was a key figure in the women’s suffrage and women's rights movements of the 20th century. Born in New Jersey and educated in Pennsylvania (Swarthmore and University of Pennsylvania), she worked through the National Woman Suffrage Association and then founded the National Woman’s Party, organizing and protesting regularly for women’s right to vote in America. Even after the 19th Amendment was ratified, she continued to play a major role in securing equal rights for women through the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And she was the original author of the Equal Rights Amendment, first introduced in Congress in 1923 though not passed by both houses until 1972. It ultimately failed to be ratified by ¾ of the States by the deadline.

On February 7, 2017, Representative Thomas MacArthur (R-NJ) introduced HR 967, Alice Paul Congressional Gold Medal Act:
“This bill requires the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate to make arrangements for the presentation of a Congressional Gold Medal in commemoration of Alice Paul to recognize her role in the women's suffrage movement and in advancing equal rights for women.”

Since the American Revolution, Congress has commissioned gold medals as its highest expression of national appreciation for distinguished achievements and contributions. It is one of the highest civilian awards in the United States. It is awarded to individuals or institutions that “have performed an achievement that has an impact on American history and culture that is likely to be recognized as a major achievement in the recipient’s field long after the achievement”.

The medal was first awarded in 1776 to General George Washington. Although the first recipients were military figures who participated in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Mexican-American War, Congress broadened the scope of the medal to include the arts, athletics, aviation, diplomacy, entertainment, exploration, medicine, philanthropy, politics, religion, and science. In all, 160 medals have been awarded.

Unfortunately, it was not until 1938 that the medal was awarded to a woman…two women in fact, Mrs. Richard Aldrich and Anna Bouligny, for their service to wounded soldiers in Puerto Rico. It took another 35 years before the medal was again awarded to a woman. This time it was African American singer Marian Anderson in 1977 for her “highly distinguished and impressive career”. Since its inception in 1776, the Congressional gold medal has been awarded to women on 16 occasions but on 4 of those occasions, the medal was actually awarded to a husband and wife: Ruth and Billy Graham (1996), Gerald and Betty Ford (1999), Ronald and Nancy Reagan (2000), and Dr. Martin Luther King and Coretta Scott King (2004).

This is not the first time a bill to award the Congressional gold medal to Alice Paul  has been introduced. Sadly, it has been introduced into every session of Congress going back to the 109th Session (2005-2006). For frame of reference, we are in the 115th Session of Congress which began on January 3, 2017. There has been companion Senate legislation introduced in every session but one. The obstacle continues to be lack of Congressional support. All Gold Medal legislation must be cosponsored by at least 2/3 of the Members of the House (290 members) and Senate (67 members) before they can even be considered by their respective committees (Senate Banking, Housing & Urban Affairs; House Financial Services). The closest that cosponsorship has come to meeting the requirement was in 2008 with 406 Representatives but only 43 Senators. With each subsequent re-introduction of the legislation, support has dwindled. There have been 21 medals awarded since 2008.

This petition is not meant in any way to diminish previous honorees but to officially recognize Alice Paul for her tireless and selfless work on behalf of women’s suffrage and women’s rights. These issues have undeniably impacted and continue to influence not only the political landscape but also the economic, social and cultural fabric of this nation!!

By your signature, you are asking your Federal Representatives to cosponsor HR 967 and your Senators to introduce/cosponsor companion legislation. We then expect swift action as each bill is voted out of their respective committees and onto the House and Senate floors for passage. Your support of this petition is greatly appreciated. You are encouraged to SHARE THIS PETITION with friends and family for their signature, and to also CALL YOUR LEGISLATORS to vocalize your support. Achieving a 2/3 cosponsorship in both the House and Senate is a formidable hurdle, making every bit of support crucial. For Alice Paul to finally be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, we will not only be acknowledging how far women have come but how far we still have to go!!

This petition was created by Hear Me Roar!, a grassroots effort to advance women’s involvement at all levels of American government through bipartisan education, activism and research. To fulfill our goal of gender parity in government, we provide college scholarships and intern stipends to young women seeking futures in government service, and partner with other organizations to provide elementary, middle, and high school girls with experiences designed to increase their knowledge of and stimulate their interest in politics and government service.
Please visit our website: www.hear-me-roar.org
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REFERENCES

  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alice_Paul
  2. https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/house-bill/967?q=%7B%22search%22%3A%5B%22alice+paul%22%5D%7D&r=1
  3. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL30076.pdf
  4. http://history.house.gov/Institution/Gold-Medal/Gold-Medal-Recipients/

 



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