A group of Princeton University students has been in the news lately for pursuing erasure of all laudatory mention of former Princeton (and US) President Woodrow Wilson from the Ivy League school’s campus. That includes renaming buildings and more, the ultimate goal being the elimination of Wilson’s legacy from the University because of his racist views. The University has been considering how to meet the students’ demands/requests, since even current President Christopher Eisgruber says that despite Wilson’s mainly “positive impact” on Princeton, his “record on race is disturbing.”
The students could do worse than to study the tactics of Alice Paul, the famous American Suffragette honored by a Google doodle on January 11. Wilson’s record on women’s rights was about as enlightened as his record on race, before Alice Paul used her homespun political might — just as current Princeton students are doing — to influence Wilson. Lesson one from the Alice Paul handbook might be persistence. Paul organized her first protest outside the soon-to-be Wilson White House the day before his inauguration, with 5,000 protesters drawing from every state. There was violence against the marchers, but still there was no retreat. Four years later in 1917 Paul’s group was still holding signs (“Mr. President — What will you do for woman suffrage?”) outside the White House, despite being harassed and routinely arrested. Under unwavering political pressure from Paul, Wilson announced his support for women’s suffrage in 1917. The Nineteenth Amendment granting it was passed in 1920. It’s obviously too late for Princeton students to change Woodrow Wilson’s outlook, as Alice Paul managed to do. But changing the way that outlook is viewed is only a matter of time, given some Alice Paul-style persistence.
— Women in the World (@WomenintheWorld) January 11, 2016