The Alice Paul Institute’s (API) recent reopening was celebrated at Paulsdale in honor of Alice Paul’s birthday on Jan. 13.
The 40 Forward celebration at Alice’s Birthday Party took place at Paulsdale and featured a new exhibit called “Women’s History is Women’s Right.” The event was the first in a series planned for 2024 to celebrate API’s 40-year anniversary.
The institute is a nonprofit based in Mount Laurel that was founded in 1984 as the Alice Paul Centennial Foundation to commemorate 100 years since Paul’s 1885 birth. It was an all-volunteer effort until 2000, but as of today, eight paid staff, dozens of volunteers and a board of directors have worked together to enhance the organization’s leadership development, civic engagement and historic preservation.
The institute furthers the legacy of Paul and her life’s work for women’s suffrage and takes a leadership role in bringing recognition to women and the organizations and historic sites that honor them. Headquartered within a National Historic Landmark, the organization is a model of adaptive reuse of a historic site that now hosts a menu of leadership development, as well as civic engagement programs.
API’s offerings use the history and potential of women leaders to inspire young people to make a difference in their communities.
Curator Olivia Errico explained that the new exhibit explores the founding of API within the larger story of how the field of women’s history came about.
“When creating a temporary exhibit like the one that we put up, I start with thinking about the big picture message that I want the audience to take away from it,” she explained. “For this exhibit, it was about how (the institute) and its founding was part of a bigger story about the development of women’s history as a field and an area of study.
“Once I knew that there’s a story I wanted to tell,” Errico added, “it was the just a matter of going through our archives, going through the objects, pictures and documents we have and seeing how I can put them all together to create that story. I’ll also do some broader research to inform the interpretation.”
Mount Laurel Deputy Mayor Nikitas Moustakas and Councilwoman Karen Cohen attended the birthday celebration, where Moustakas emphasized his and council’s appreciation for the institute’s efforts through the years.
“We continue to be inspired by Alice Paul’s work and mission, and for over four decades, the institute has done a wonderful job inspiring women and girls to become politically active and view themselves as leaders,” he pointed out.
“They will continue this wonderful work for years to come.”
The institute will host a virtual “lunch and learn” program on Thursday, Feb. 29 in partnership with the Lawnside Historical Society. Called “Champions of Equality,” the presentation focuses on Black women who self-emancipated during the era of slavery.
To mark Women’s History Month in March, the nonprofit plans a community archiving day on Saturday, March 23, during which guests can bring materials related to the history of women and feminism in South Jersey to be scanned and added to a digital archive the institute is creating.
API will also present a Liberated Leadership Breakfast and happy hour event on Thursday, March 28, where attendees will be able to learn about the leadership of women during the suffrage movement and winners of the Alice Paul Trailblazer award will be honored.
The “Women’s History is Women’s Right” exhibit will be up throughout the year. Weekly self-guided tours are currently available on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
For more information on the Alice Paul Institute, visit www.alicepaul.org.