Admittedly I began writing in serial format out of impatience. I wanted to begin ASAP. I want the reader engaged ASAP. My mind, most minds, work in serialized form. We collect information and it keeps collecting and then crystallizes ~ something I call the Diamond Process. We certainly don’t wait for an entire life to be lived before we can learn from it. We prioritize, arrange by topic and love to wrap our minds around a single expanding idea.
A few readers have written me to point out that I have left things out of Alice Paul’s chronological life. It never interested me to write a biography of Miss Alice Paul. I want to use her lessons, her strategy and, truly most important, her NEVER waning dedication to a singular issue. From her first visit to a Settlement House, this banker’s daughter decided that constitutional equality was the only lasting, full answer. No matter how the question was posed or discovered, Miss Paul would not step one toe beyond her mission. That interests me.
Of course no biography has come even near to knowing her. After more than two years in Alice Paul submersion, I feel qualified to say that the best information is 1) the interview with Amelia Fry, 2) articles and things that pop up from google alerts, 3) interviews with women who knew her, and 4) mad curiosity. Susan Ware may not like her, people definitely found her to be stern, I found her to be the pinnacle of etiquette and tenacity. I adore her. Do not misunderstand, as I have written, she was often very unlikable. I have never held back from digging beyond the hat and fur. Test your love with inquiry or it is not real.
What I find so disturbing, so frustrating, so maddening can be illustrated with comparing any decent bibliography of hers with any of her fellow student, Mohandas Gandhi. There are countless books on the lessons and strategies of Gandhi and zero on Alice Paul. There are books about Gandhi’s hybrid faith of Islam and Hindu but none on the Mindful Enlightenment of Miss Paul’s Quakerism. In other words, there is an inherent sexism that shouts from my two principle library collections. Of course, the fact that they both were taught by Mrs. Pankhurst is almost unknown.
Serialization allows me to pick a subject and dig deeply. First I built a foundation simply so I would know where to look and see who knows what. You need to separate the light bearing jewels from the muddy lop-sided opinions. That took a lot of reading and a lot of aggravation. Miss Catt did all she could to bury the light. Mrs. Belmont wielded her check book like a cattle prod. Some authors have no interest in what Miss Paul did after August 26, 1920. The NWP Board of Directors voted 25 / 0 to not financially assist her when she reached her 90’s. To know her fully, you need a wide lens.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman, (Herland free online) Alexander Dumas, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Dickens all wrote in serial format. I am not comparing my writing to theirs in any way. I am admiring the writing process. I have already discovered the meditative and prayerful reading process of Lectio Divina. Now I can apply it to non-linear topical writing. It is the form I prefer ~ the essay but with a central character whom I admire more everyday. And, there is the added bonus of bridging her strategy and inspiration to current day activism.
I spent a month reading, thinking and writing on:
Now I get to spend a month on Silence, an asset Miss Paul used so very wisely. Something the Women in Black and Standing Man used. Zen Buddhists master. Musicians treasure by surrounding it with notes. Life is episodic, sitting in the pickling juice. I get to sit in the light, wait for what surfaces and write the next chapter.