Heroes and Villains

Alice Paul’s Perseverance for the Vote

A look at the virtue of perseverance, which is defined as remembering how many people before you chosen the easy path rather than the right one and to stay the course, through the life and work of Alice Paul.

Founding Principles

Civic Virtue image

Civic Virtue

A set of actions and habits necessary for the safe, effective, and mutually beneficial participation in a society.

Private Virtue image

Private Virtue

The idea that only a knowledgeable and virtuous citizenry can sustain liberty.

Suggested Launch Activity

If your situation allows, present this activity when your students (or a majority of them) have just completed a traditionally arduous schoolrelated project, assignment, or other experience (e.g., U.S. history paper, AP exams, college or other applications, pre-season athletic training, science fair, or other major presentations).

Distribute plain white paper and colored pencils to students. Instruct students to fold the paper into thirds, as if folding a business letter. Have them unfold and create a horizontal “row” at the top of the paper and draw a straight line on each crease to create three sections of below that top “row”, as shown:


Instruct students to label each section as follows:

  • At the start
  • During
  • Post-Survival!

In the top row, students will identify a recent, difficult situation which required them to persevere. Using words, doodles, shapes, or drawings, students will describe how they felt—and what thoughts they had—at each of the three identified stages in the process. Encourage students to talk among themselves as they complete their illustrations.

Lead a class discussion in which the students describe how they felt heading into a difficult or intimidating project, what their strategies were as they went through it, what helped them to persevere, and how they felt after they had completed the process. Conclude the discussion by identifying common themes about what helped them to persevere and what intrinsic rewards they experienced by having persevered.

Post or project this definition of perseverance: Remembering how many before you chose the easy path rather than the right one, and staying the course.

Conclude the discussion by asking: How can knowing others’ stories of perseverance help us to persevere in difficult situations?

About Launch Activities

The optional introductory activity above is designed to support you in the classroom. However, the primary narratives and photos in the section that follows can be used with or without this introduction.

Lesson Background

“I have an important decision to make, Miss Paul,” said Doctor Fallon, sitting in a chair by the metal bed to which his patient was restrained. “The doctors and nurses on the ward here tell me you have not eaten in over two weeks.”…

Essay PDF

Sources and Further Reading

Adams, Katherine H., and Michael L. Keene. Alice Paul and the American Suffrage Campaign. Champagne, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2007.

Anthony, Susan B. “Is it a Crime for a Citizen of the United States to Vote?”

Butler, Amy E. Two Paths to Equality: Alice Paul and Ethel M. Smith in the Era Debate, 1921-1929. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2002.

Walton, Mary. A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Virtue Across the Curriculum

Below are corresponding literature and film suggestions to help you teach this virtue across the curriculum. A sample prompt has been provided for the key corresponding work. For the other suggested works, or others that are already part of your curriculum, create your own similar prompts.

The Odyssey by Homer
How is Odysseus a model of perseverance? Why does he continue in his quest for home? How do his wife, Penelope, and son, Telemachus, also demonstrate this virtue?

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (or other literature with a quest theme)
In literature, what defines a quest? What is the pattern of a hero or heroine’s quest? How can this literary pattern and theme inform or encourage us when we must persevere toward a goal?

Amazing Grace directed by Michael Apted (2007)
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Mrs. Dolloway by Virginia Woolf
House of Mirth by Edith Wharton
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
The Pursuit of Happyness directed by Gabriele Muccino (2006)
Rocky directed by John G. Avildsen (1976)
Rudy directed by David Anspaugh (1993)
The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis

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