The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibited states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens on the basis on sex, was passed in 1919 and ratified in 1920. While there are several places around the country where you can celebrate women’s suffrage—including Seneca Falls, New York, dubbed the birthplace of women’s rights, and Susan B. Anthony’s birthplace in Rochester, New York—there hasn’t been a national monument dedicated to the cause. Until now.
The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial, located on the grounds of Occoquan Regional Park, is set to open in late spring or early summer. It will honor and tell the story of the millions of women who fought for more than seven decades for the right to cast a ballot. The location for the 1.6-acre national memorial was selected since the adjacent Workhouse Arts Center was formerly a correctional facility where suffragists were held in 1917 after they were arrested for picketing at the White House.
That year, female protestors known as the “Silent Sentinels,” began peacefully picketing six days a week decked out in white, gold, and purple sashes, holding signs that called on President Woodrow Wilson to create a federal law giving them the right to vote. As the country entered World War I, many fellow citizens interpreted their actions as unpatriotic, and police began to find excuses to arrest them, including minor violations like obstructing traffic. At first, those arrested were immediately released, but eventually they faced stricter punishments, such as 60 days in prison at the Lorton Correctional Facility.
The monument will feature replicas of the White House gates, 19 informational stops, and a landscaped meditation garden. It will also be considered a new stop along the Constitution Train, which links sites in Washington, DC, and Virginia. The memorial joins the Lucy Burns Museum, which tells the story of the prison that was open from 1910 and 2001 along with its notable inmates, including activists and suffragists as well as notorious criminals, and its repurposing as a music-and-arts center.
The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial is still under construction. For more information, visit its website. In the meantime, you can read this recent blog post that details the story of the suffragists at the Workhouse Arts Center.
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