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1975 Alice Paul '05 and the Women's Center

Alice Paul '05

Seeing themselves as part of feminism's "second wave" and inspired by the organizing efforts of African American students in establishing the Black Cultural Center, members of Swarthmore Women's Liberation began pushing for a place of their own in the early 1970s. Their efforts were successful, and in spring 1974, the College established a women's center in two rooms on Bond's second floor. 

Shortly after, the center came under attack, as chronicled by the many Phoenix editorials and articles about the bitter fights over funding between the center and the Student Budget Committee. Because of the controversy, the center's members thought naming it for a prominent alumna would help bring legitimacy to the young organization.

At a Dec. 5, 1975, dedication ceremony, the center was named for Alice Paul, Class of 1905 and a lifelong advocate for women's rights. Paul, 90 years old and living in New Jersey, was invited. Although unable to attend, she was reportedly very pleased by the news.

Paul's Swarthmore connections predated her arrival on campus. She was raised in New Jersey, a descendant of a long line of influential Quakers with ties traceable to William Penn. Among them was William Parry, her grandfather, who shared a spade with fellow College founder Lucretia Mott to break ground for the planting of the first trees on campus. Her mother, Tacie Parry, was in the College's first class of students in 1878 but had to drop out when she got married. Paul, who founded the National Woman's Party and organized pickets of Woodrow Wilson's White House for women's suffrage, later wrote the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment submitted to Congress. 

In the next decade, the center grew in popularity, moved to larger accommodations in a former fraternity house, increased its library of women's studies texts, and added paid interns. In 1985, the center even hosted some of the events held during the College's two-week celebration of the 100th anniversary of Paul's birth. 

But the name didn't last, and although feminism thrives among current students, the center is no longer its public face on campus. In the early 1990s, amid student debate about how to broaden the center's appeal and the role it should play on campus, Paul's name was quietly dropped and the center was renamed the Women's Resource Center.

Paul's name reappeared on a campus edifice when, in 2004, students chose Alice Paul Hall as the name for the then-newest residence hall. Housing 75 students in a combination of single and double rooms, as well as six two-level "loft doubles," the sustainably-designed building includes a green roof with a layer of shale, a layer of growing media, and a lush mat of vegetation.