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Author Tina Cassidy Visits Ropes & Gray to Speak on Women and the Fight for Suffrage

Tags: Diversity


Watch this video recording of author Tina Cassidy's
30-minute presentation on her new book.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Ropes & Gray’s Women’s Forum hosted author and former Boston Globe journalist Tina Cassidy for a discussion on how women won the right to vote in the United States, as detailed in her new book, Mr. President, How Long Must We Wait?: Alice Paul, Woodrow Wilson and the Fight for the Right to Vote. The event took place on March 12 and 13 in Boston and New York, respectively, and was broadcast live to several offices.

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Ms. Cassidy discussed the life of Alice Paul, a Quaker from New Jersey, who was an American suffragist, feminist, and one of the main leaders and strategists of the campaign for the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In 1913, women only had full voting rights in six states, primarily in the Western region of the country.

Alice Paul’s desire to fight for social justice and equality led her to organize the first ever women’s march in the United States. The procession, held on March 3, 1913, drew close to 8,000 women—an exceptional organizational feat without access to modern modes of communication. However, the protest revealed deep divisions in the women’s movement, such as disagreements over strategy and race, particularly surrounding Paul’s decision to invite black women to participate in the march.

“When reading this book, I was particularly struck by the issues that can still be seen in society today, as well as the legal component. The history detailed here provides an interesting lens with which to view current events,” said Amanda Morrison, private equity transactions partner and Women’s Forum co-chair, who introduced Ms. Cassidy in Boston.

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Amanda Morrison (left) and Tina Cassidy (right).

Comparing Alice Paul to Colin Kaepernick, Ms. Cassidy exposed the similarities between protest then and now. She shared a passage from her book detailing some of the many creative, non-violent protests employed by Paul.

In particular, Ms. Cassidy focused on Paul’s decision to organize a silent vigil outside of the White House to express to President Woodrow Wilson that great numbers of women want to be free and demand action. The protest triggered a series of unlawful arrests, and while in prison, some of the suffragists staged a hunger strike. These protests were successful, as sympathy for the women’s rights movement continued to build.

Alice Paul’s work did not end when the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920. She went on to earn a law degree from the Washington College of Law in 1922, and later a master’s degree and doctorate from American University. In 1923, she wrote the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), a proposed constitutional amendment that would guarantee equal legal rights for all Americans regardless of sex. The amendment was approved by Congress in 1972 but was never ratified by the necessary 38 states.

The ongoing effort to ratify the ERA is just one of many contemporary analogs to Alice Paul’s work in the early 20th century. “We’re still fighting many of the same battles, just in different ways,” noted litigation & enforcement partner and Women’s Forum co-chair Lisa Bebchick, who introduced Ms. Cassidy in New York.

Following the presentation, Ms. Cassidy answered questions from the audience related to historiography, Prohibition in the United States, and the process of writing in the narrative non-fiction style, among other topics.

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Lisa Bebchick (left) and Tina Cassidy (right).
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