Recently I went to see Tim Burton's film Alice In Wonderland. Much has been written about the Johnny Depp/Tim Burton collaboration, the film's record-breaking $116 million debut, and its 3-D presentation. But little has been written about Alice. After all, isn't Alice In Wonderland all about Alice? Linda Wooverton wrote an inspired screenplay that glorifies Alice's independence, her adventurous nature, courage and what the script calls her muchness. What a mysterious and wonderful word - muchness.
So what about Alice and her muchness? In Disney's 2010 screenplay Alice delays accepting a marriage proposal to the son of her late father's wealthy business partner, publicly made in front of several hundred expectant guests. Instead she opts to pursue her "dream" by bolting the scene to follow a white rabbit right down what seems to be a never-ending rabbit hole. When she finally lands in a splat, she begins a thrilling journey in Underland to find her own destiny. Along the way, she meets the usual White Rabbit, Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, the Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar and the unusual Mad Hatter played by Johnny Depp. After much colorful adventure, she eventually rediscovers her muchness by courageously fighting the Jabberwocky dragon and ending the terrorizing rule of the Queen of Hearts. Without giving away the "new" conclusion, in the event you haven't yet seen the film, trust me when I say, that this Alice is an inspiration to girls and young women everywhere! So take your daughters, nieces, and all the little girls you know and don't know (www.Commonsensemedia.com says over age 10) to see this film. It's exciting to see a girl portrayed in all her femininity, show courage and chutzpa, and has as the Mad Hatter calls it -- muchness ...
This Alice and her rediscovery of her "muchness" so inspired me, that I became curious about other women named Alice who were in touch with their muchness.
The first Alice that popped into my head was Alice Walker, the African American novelist and Pulitzer Prize winning author of the The Color Purple. Alice Walker certainly has muchness. Then I thought of Alice of "Alice's Restaurant" fame and Alice Cooper -- but they weren't the kind of Alice's I was looking for.
Then I remembered Alice Paul (1885 - 1977), who helped women in America gain the right to vote. Her vision was that women and men should be equal partners in society. She is credited as one of the leading figures responsible for the passage of the 19th Amendment (woman suffrage) to the U.S. Constitution. In her honor, the Equal Rights Amendment was sometimes called the Alice Paul Amendment. Wow! Alice Paul certainly lived a life of muchness. For a woman with muchness, we don't know much about her. Learn more at www.alicepaul.org.
Since I couldn't think of any other famous women named Alice. I started researching. I was delighted with the women I found. There was Alice Stone Blackwell (1857- 1950) who said, "Justice is better than chivalry if we can't have both." That was profound and certainly revealed her muchness. It turns out that Alice Stone Blackwell was the daughter of Lucy Stone and Henry Browne Blackwell, who were both abolitionists and predecessors of Alice Paul in the Suffrage Movement. Upon her mother's passing Alice Stone Blackwell took on her role as the editor of the Women's Journal and continued her legacy as a women's rights advocate.
Then there was Alice Dunbar Nelson(1875 - 1935), a writer, poet, educator and activist in the Harlem Renaissance. Though the daughter of a former slave, Alice was highly educated, married several times, and campaigned for African American and women's rights. She had a successful career as a journalist and public speaker and was quite inspirational to women of all backgrounds.
I also learned about Alice Duer Miller (1874 - 1942), a poet and novelist whose poem "The White Cliffs" when published in 1940 sold over 1 million copies, which ws unheard of for a book of verse. According to reports, it also had a great influence in bringing the US into World War II. Before writing that best-selling poem Miller dedicated herself to the problem of women's suffrage. She is the author of a satiric column in New York Tribune entitled "Are Women People?". In 1915 the column was collected in a book Are Women People? and later Women are People! (1917).
Five women named Alice -- and four of the five devoted their muchness to gaining women the right to vote. How interesting that the Alice of Burton's "Wonderland" was portrayed as a non-traditional woman - who showed the kind of courage and sense of adventure these five women named Alice demonstrated in real life. This kind of muchness will never be too much, don't you think? What other women named Alice comes to your mind, who are known for their muchness?
Leslie Grossman, Cofounder, Women's Leadership Exchange