Patricia Monaghan

Poetry, Nature, Culture

Selected Works

A new edition of the definitive guide to dozens of ways to meditate, presented for beginners. Co-authored with yoga expert Eleanor Viereck.
"A dreamy, utterly enchanting walking meditation on Ireland's pagan heart."
An introduction to the history of wine in the Midwest and a guide to current producers.
Poems about the sacred Heartland
Seasons as metaphors for women's lives
Poetry and physics dance in this stunning collection
A searing book about the effects of war on veterans and their families.
Edited nonfiction
Three volumes of essays on fascinating divinities from around the world
Definitive volume on the myths and legends of the Celtic peoples.
The definitive resource on the world's female deities.
Essays and poems
Selected links to online works
Online reviews of Patricia's work

Lay of the Land

Memories of Alice Paul

August 25, 2010

Tags: Suffrage, women's rights, Alice Paul, Equal Rights Amendment

This week, as we mark the 90th anniversary of the approval of women’s suffrage in the United States, I find myself thinking of Alice Paul.
In 1974, I joined with other Quaker women near Philadelphia for a gathering on women’s spirituality. I cannot remember why I was delegated to call Alice Paul, or how we found her telephone number. I do remember our message to her, and hers to us.
From a public phone in a dormitory hallway, I explained to an attendant at Quaker Greenleaf Extension Home in New Jersey that no, I did not know Ms. Paul, but yes, I needed to talk to her. The attendant was suitably cautious but at length agreed to put the call through. She went off the line, and I stood, shifting from foot to foot, waiting for a voice from history.
Alice Paul was 89. She would live another three years. When she died, the Constitutional amendment she had written had passed the Congress, after having been introduced for 49 consecutive years. It was a simple, straightforward statement: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” I hope she died happy, unaware that just a few years later the ERA would be stopped just three states from passage.
The ERA was not the first Constitutional battle that Paul had waged. In 1916, impatient at the almost sixty-year struggle for women’s suffrage, Paul founded the National Women’s Party, which believed in direct nonviolent action to gain public support for their cause. Paul and other NWP women promptly chained themselves to the White House fence as “Silent Sentinels.” These brave women were arrested and subjected to physical abuse so severe that some have called it torture. But Paul’s bold vision was correct: horrified by the punishment meted out to the suffragists and inspired by their commitment, the public moved to support women’s suffrage. Within two years, Congress had passed the 19th amendment, and a year later, it had been ratified by the states into law.
Just three years later, Paul proposed the Equal Rights Amendment and, for the rest of her life, worked to see it passed. Two years before my call, Congress finally passed the ERA, and supporters across America were working furiously for its passage, state by state. It was a hopeful time. Dozens of states quickly passed the amendment, and it looked as though approval was imminent. But the year after I spoke to Alice Paul, the campaign of misinformation against the ERA, which involved allegations of unisex bathrooms and forced conscription, began to have its impact, and the pace of approvals slowed. Finally, in 1982, the amendment reached the legislated end of its approval period. Some supporters still work for its passage, but many today have entirely forgotten the heady days when it seemed as though the United States would actually guarantee equal rights for women.
But that was all ahead, on that sunny day in 1974, when a waveringly thin voice came on the other end of the phone. “Hello, this is Alice Paul.”
For a moment, I could not speak. Alice Paul. In my mind’s eye, I could see that historic photo of her, dressed in white, chained to a stark black fence. Then I took a deep breath and regained my voice. After telling her where I was calling from, I gave her our message, “We wanted to thank you for all you’ve done, and to tell you we’re working hard for passage of the ERA.”
There was a small silence, then Alice Paul answered. “Good,” she said. Her voice was matter-of-fact and, though small and old, had a steely strength. “Keep at it. Don’t ever give up. Tell the women that. Don’t ever give up.”
“We won’t,” I said. “I won’t.” Then I thanked her again and hung up.
It’s now 26 years since I heard Alice Paul’s voice. But her message rings down through the years, and I hope I have kept my promise.


  1. August 26, 2010 1:04 PM EDT
    Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful moment w/Alice. It's a great article!
    - Judie
  2. November 12, 2010 1:15 AM EST
    ERA 2015 - Alice Paul's legacy continues....
    There's no need to start all over - let's finish what we started! 3 states and nothing more!

    - United For Equality (U4E)
  3. July 19, 2013 2:22 PM EDT
    Enjoyed hearing that you actually talked to her. I have always revered her because her birthday month & day are the same as mine. Many years ago, I dressed as Alice Paul & carried a sign with one of her slogans from the women's movement. It was part of an observance during Federal/National Woman's Month.
    - Connie
  4. May 2, 2014 12:22 PM EDT
    Hi: I knew Alice Paul, was one of the longest-serving members of the board of trustees of the National Woman's Party, which Miss Paul founded, have written about Miss Paul, and am frequently in touch with researchers, authors, and filmmakers who are interested in historical facts about Miss Paul. I am, therefore, concerned when I see misinformation about her on the Internet or anywhere else. The article by the late Ms. Monahan states she placed a telephone call to Miss Paul and spoke to her in 1974 when Miss Paul was at the Greenleaf Home in NJ. That could not possibly have happened in 1974 as Miss Paul did not leave the Alta Craig Nursing Home in Ridgefield, CT, for the Greenleaf Home until late summer/early fall of 1976. I myself visited her at the Alta Craig Home in Connecticut in March 1976.
    - Sonia Pressman Fuentes
  5. May 2, 2014 2:00 PM EDT
    This is Michael McDermott, husband of my beloved and late Dr. Patricia Monaghan. I have been in touch with Ms. Fuentes and asked her to speak to the overall tone of this piece as an homage to Alice Paul. She obviously has not done this. Nonetheless I will allow these remarks with apologies to my beloved Patricia.
    - Michael McDermott