At the South Jersey grave site of suffragist Alice Paul, a handwritten thank-you letter, a single red rose, and bouquets of purple, yellow, and white flowers were among the items piling up Tuesday, as the first woman nominated by a major party for president appeared on the ballot nationwide.
Nearly a dozen "I Voted Today" stickers with American flags covered the humble gravestone of the Quaker woman credited with creating a strategy that would help women win the right to vote almost 100 years ago.
"I knew today that I wanted to come and say 'Good for you, Alice,' " said the Rev. Michael Doyle, of Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Camden, who brought the red rose to the Westfield Friends cemetery, in Cinnaminson, where Paul is buried.
"She is a heroic woman and I sure would have been honored to meet her. . . . She gave her all to the glory of the democratic way and persevered through severe suffering," he said, referring to the hunger strikes Paul organized in prison after she was arrested for leading marches and picketing in Washington, D.C., and elsewhere.
Doyle, who recently underwent surgeries for jaw cancer, said that he has visited the grave site several times in recent years because he was impressed with Paul's dedication and sacrifices. "She was so genuine and so humble," he said.
Suzanne Gili Post, of Haddonfield, said she felt compelled to visit Paul's grave site after becoming involved in several other election events in the past two days. Post said she attended Hillary Clinton's rally in Philadelphia Monday night and that on Tuesday, soon after she voted, she decided to leave work early to visit Paul's birthplace in Mount Laurel. Someone there said that Paul's cemetery was nearby and Post decided to go there too.
"I like rituals, and this (visit) made all of that more significant," Post said, her voice quivering. "At the rally I could feel the exuberance and cooperation and sense of joy that people have. . . . What Alice Paul stood for is not about words, but about deeds." Post said a few quiet words to Paul and thanked her before leaving.
At Paulsdale, the suffragist's birthplace, more than 30 people had already stopped in, two hours after its noon opening, Kris Myers, program director, said. Normally, only two to 10 people visit, she said. "It's election day and people want to pay homage to Alice Paul. . . . She probably would had said, 'Why did it take so long?' (to have a woman on the presidential ballot)," Myers said.
Cathy Nevins, of Cherry Hill, brought her two granddaughters, Lily, 9, and Lucy, 7, to Paulsdale to see the place where Paul was raised, and the museum that honors her accomplishments. "It's an important day for me, and the children were off today, so we thought we should come here," Nevins said.
"I think she was a great leader and made a big difference in our country," said Lily, smiling. She said she liked learning about Paul's story and winning recognition for women.