How women got in on the Civil Rights Act

140721_r25240_p233Louis Menand at The New Yorker:

For twenty years, the belief that the sex provision was a monkey wrench that unintentionally became part of the machine was the conventional wisdom about Title VII. But when scholars—including Michael Gold, Carl Brauer, Cynthia Deitch, Jo Freeman, and Robert Bird—dug into the archives they not only learned that the real story of the sex amendment was quite different; they essentially uncovered an alternative history of women’s rights.

The person behind the sex amendment was the seventy-nine-year-old leader of a tiny fringe organization called the National Woman’s Party. Alice Paul was a major figure in the American suffragist movement, back at the time of the First World War. Paul was a Quaker. She attended Swarthmore and then the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned the first of many advanced degrees. In 1907, she went to study in Britain and got caught up in the suffragist movement, led by Emmeline Pankhurst. It changed her life.

Pankhurst ranks with Gandhi and King as one of the great practitioners of what King and others called “direct action.” She had suffragists break windows, chain themselves to the gates of Buckingham Palace, disrupt meetings.

more here.