Ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 was the true genesis of women’s rights in our country! But do you know the names of these women? Eleanor Clift – author and political analyst, puts it succinctly…
“They engineered the greatest expansion of democracy on a single day the world had ever seen, and yet suffrage faded from public memory almost as
soon as it happened. The leaders built no monuments to themselves, and too many of their names have been lost to history.”
It’s a rewarding undertaking to finally commemorate and tell the sweeping story of the thousands of women who fought tirelessly for 72 years not just to gain the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment, but as the moment when all American women secured full citizenship and entry into the Constitution! The “story” will emphasize the suffragists imprisoned at the Occoquan Workhouse for picketing the White House. When word leaked out about the deplorable conditions and violent treatment, it became a significant turning point in the struggle for suffrage.
We envision this national memorial as the third stop on our region’s “Constitutional Trail;” beginning at Mt. Vernon, home of George Washington, we recognize Washington’s contribution as chair of the Constitutional Convention where he advocated for a democratic electoral process – no monarchs – and became our first elected President. Next stop is Gunston Hall, home of George Mason, author of the Bill of Rights. Last stop, the Turning Point Suffragist Memorial, which celebrates the American women’s full franchise into the Constitution!
The garden-style memorial will be located within Occoquan Regional Park which was originally part of the prison property where the suffragists were incarcerated. The park is being redeveloped into a magnificent cultural center that has been funded by the sale of bonds by NOVA Parks. The Association must raise private funds for construction of the two-acre memorial, a cost of $7 million. NOVA Parks will maintain the memorial in perpetuity upon completion. Our target is to be operational for the centennial celebration of ratification of the 19th Amendment, August, 2020.
Our mission to educate, inspire and empower visitors will far exceed the historical. Upon completion of the memorial, we will scrutinize the skills and characteristics these suffragist women successfully employed which will form the foundation of our ongoing programs to include topics such as leadership, public speaking, political candidacy, social responsibility, fiscal acumen, equal rights, etc. as they apply to the present and future. Our students will be diverse, from all socioeconomic quarters and hail from all parts of the country – just like the suffragists!
How can you help? Check out our website, www.suffragistmemorial.org. Please join our association and/or make a donation. Contact us with your questions and join a committee. We are working toward raising $1 million by November 30, 2015 to meet the terms of our MOU with NOVA Parks.
Our current campaign, A “Grand” Thank You, Memorialize the Suffragists, is seeking 1,000 donors (individuals or groups) who will give $1,000. The goal is to have the $7 million memorial built no later than the hundred year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, 2020, but completion by 2017 to commemorate the incarcerations at the Occoquan Workhouse is preferred. Please spread the word about the TPSM and about what these women endured.
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By: Patricia D. Wirth
Executive Director Turning Point Suffragist Memorial