Lucy Burns, an ardent suffrage activist, strived for women’s rights in both the United States and the United Kingdom. Born on July 28, 1879, to a Catholic family, Lucy spent her childhood in New York. She was a very bright young lady, attending Packer Collegiate Institute formerly known as Brooklyn Female Academy in 1890. She later when on to teach there for two years before she decided to move to Germany to continue to study language. Burns later continued her studies at the prestigious Oxford University, where she got her first taste of activism with the Pankhurst family from 1909 to 1912. She met Emmeline Pankhurst along with her two daughters. Lucy was so moved by their work in activism that she abandoned her studies to join them in working for the Women’s Social and Political Union.
Now as a women’s suffrage activist she spent many vigorous hours in the streets of Europe giving speeches on street corners, at market places and anywhere people would stop and listen. Her enthusiasm for activism eventually caused her to appear in court on many different occasions. Her actions were described as "disorderly conduct" in numerous newspapers. During the time of her women’s suffrage speeches, she was eventually arrested for trying to stop a Limehouse meeting on the budget, by Lloyd George. In prison Burns, along with many other women fighting for their rights, refused to do prison work, damaged cells and went on hunger strikes.
There she met her partner in crime, Alice Paul, another suffragette. Lucy Burns first met Alice Paul in a London police station after the women had both been arrested. Paul was introducing herself to Burns when she noticed that on her lapel, Lucy had an American flag pin. Soon the women were comparing activism in Great Britain and America. They "were opposites in appearance and temperament...whereas Paul appeared fragile, Burns was tall and curvaceous.” Both Paul and Alice took part in the women’s prison hunger strikes to persuade but, unlike Paul, Burns took it to the extreme and ended up having to be force-fed in prison. Together these two magnificent women formed the National Woman's Party and were a part of the National American Women Suffrage Association as Congressional Committee.
Both women emphasized the importance of having a political party, in power, responsible for a federal suffrage amendment. Burns was now an executive member of the Congressional Union of the National American Women Suffrage Association as her peers voted for her without a doubt in their mind. Once the Anthony amendment was finally voted on by committee and in the house, Lucy Burns was the first woman to speak to the congressional delegates.
After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, Burns retreated from activism, and returned to life in Brooklyn. Lucy Burns was a fighter, a rebel, a symbol of the American heart. She fought on even when the odds were against her and when the task at hand seemed impossible. Her zealous efforts along with many other courageous women articulated a change in the world, a strive for true equality. Burns is the true American spirit.