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GCU Hosts Book Discussion on Women’s Influence in Politics and the Pulpit

Suffragist Alice Paul and Feminist Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford Focus of GCU Book Discussion 

Lakewood, N.J., March 14, 2011—The hard-won fight for women’s voting rights and the many challenges female ministers once faced are the focus of “Women about Women: An Evening with Authors on Suffrage.” The discussion is slated for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, March 22, at Georgian Court University. This free event, part of GCU’s celebration of Women’s History Month, is open to the public and takes place in the Little Theatre on GCU’s historic campus in Lakewood.

Featured speakers are Mary Walton, author of A Woman’s Crusade: Alice Paul and the Battle for the Ballot, and Loretta Cody ’02, author of A Mighty Social Force: Phebe Ann Coffin Hanaford. Both books examine the injustices women endured—in politics and in church leadership roles—in the late 19th century and early 20th century.

Alice Paul, the Mt. Laurel-born suffragist who organized picket lines in front of the White House and ultimately moved President Woodrow Wilson to pass the Nineteenth Amendment, is easily one of the most under-appreciated civil rights leaders of the last century, says Ms. Walton.

“She was to suffrage what Ghandi was to Indian independence and what MLK was to civil rights,” says Ms. Walton, a veteran journalist who wrote for the Philadelphia Inquirer for 20 years. “It's a very dramatic story—a David and Goliath story of a young woman who was 28 when she arrived in Washington to take on the federal government and the president.”

Ms. Walton details Alice Paul’s approach to fighting for equal rights—peaceful civil disobedience—in the book, revealing the legal, physical, and emotional atrocities she and other suffragists endured.

On the religious front, the Reverend Phebe Coffin Hanaford faced difficult trials as well. She officially joined forces with other suffragists in 1869, and at age 40 was installed as the pastor of the First Universalist Church, the Church of the Good Shepherd, in Jersey City.

“Her problem wasn’t with the scriptures, but rather the interpretation of the scripture,” says Ms. Cody, a historian and retired missionary nurse who lives in Brick. “And although the Universalists favored women ministers, congregations were not always pleased with having a woman as their minister. Phebe was also involved with suffragists and that irked some parishioners.”

She aligned herself with women’s rights activists like Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. And while her record as an inspirational and effective speaker was never challenged, her gender and her allegiance to the rights of women were, says Ms. Cody.

This event is sponsored by the Sister Mary Joseph Cunningham Library at GCU, and the authors’ presentations will feature historical photographs in addition to the discussion. A book signing will follow in the library.

Admission is free, but space is limited. Reservations are required and can be made by contacting the GCU Office of Conferences and Special Events at specialevents@georgian.edu or 732.987.2263.

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is a comprehensive university with a strong liberal arts core and a special concern for women. A forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, Georgian Court serves nearly 3,000 students of all faiths and backgrounds in a residential Women's College and a coeducational University College with undergraduate and graduate programs. Georgian Court's main campus is located at 900 Lakewood Avenue, Lakewood, N.J., on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, now named a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court also offers classes at its site at One Woodbridge Center in Woodbridge, at Coastal Communiversity in Wall, and at Cumberland County College in Vineland.

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