Each day thousands of tourists visit the National Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol building. This room is the center for the Capitol’s statuary collection that honor notable people in each state’s history. A bill in the New Jersey Senate may replace one of its current statues in the collection with a new one honoring suffragette Alice Paul.
As each state is allowed two statues in the National Statuary Hall collection, the New Jersey bill would replace the statue of Major General Philip Kearny with the statue of Paul. Supporters of the bill argue that the contributions of women’s rights activists have been largely overlooked. “Women’s history needs to be recorded. For too long we’ve studied one half of the story in our history,” said Lucienne Beard, executive director of the Alice Paul Institute in Mt. Laurel.
Alice Paul co-founded the National Women’s Party, the radical branch of the American women’s suffrage movement. Women in the NWP fought for a national suffrage amendment while other groups focused on state-level legislation. They stage pickets outside the White House, and many were jailed for their activism.
Others, however, argue that Kearny deserves his place in the Capitol. State Senator Joseph Pennacchio, R-Morris, believes that Kearny’s legacy as a war veteran needs to be preserved.
The bill to begin the process of replacing the Kearny statue passed the New Jersey State Senate by a vote of 28-5. It will move forward to the Assembly and if made into law, the state will ask the federal Joint Committee on the Library of Congress to approve the new statue.