There are only two statues honoring women on New York state property, but that number will soon double. Today, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul announced that statues depicting suffragists Sojourner Truth and Rosalie Jones would be installed at two separate sites. The declaration is timed with the centennial of suffrage in New York, when women were first permitted to vote on Election Day, November 6, 1917.
Significantly, black women were often marginalized in the 19th-century women’s suffrage movement. Sojourner Truth, who was born into slavery in the 18th century, escaped to freedom in 1826, and was a major advocate for women’s rights in addition to her abolitionist activism. Her planned statue will be on the Empire State Trail in Ulster County, part of a proposed 750-mile cross-state trail, near where Truth was born.
Rosalie Jones, a lifelong activist for women’s rights, notably led the 150 mile-long suffragette hike in December of 1912 from New York City to Albany. There, after two weeks on foot, the gathered women gave the Governor-elect William Sulzer a petition for suffrage. Her statue is planned for Cold Spring Harbor State Park on Long Island, near where she was born in 1883.
The two existing statues of women on state property are of Civil War surgeon Dr. Mary Walker, in Oswego, and frontierswoman Mary Jemison, in Letchworth State Park. The announcement from the governor’s office joins today’s dedication in Central Park for a site that will feature the Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony Woman Suffrage Movement Monument. Currently, New York City has just five public statues that honor historic women.
Alongside the statue announcements, commemorative stickers will be distributed to voters for tomorrow’s Election Day in New York. These Suffrage Centennial “I Voted” stickers feature an image of Rosalie Jones. The recently launched New York State Women’s Suffrage Commission is working on programs through 2020, the centennial of the 19th Amendment, which achieved women’s suffrage nationwide. Among other significant projects, the Commission is relaunching an initiative, created under President Barack Obama, to find the original copy of the Declaration of Sentiments, a foundational document in US women’s suffrage drafted at the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. Tonight, to kick off Women’s Suffrage Centennial Month, select landmarks and buildings around New York will be illuminated in purple and gold.
“People in cities across the state should look to the skies this evening, which will be lit up in purple and gold, and feel pride in our history,” Lieutenant Governor Hochul, chair of the Women’s Suffrage Commission, stated in a release. “At the same time, as the state’s highest ranking elected woman and the Chair of the Commission celebrating this historic occasion, I am inspired by the next generation of young women who will carry the torch and fulfill our vision of equality and create a culture of respect and inclusion for all women, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender at birth, or sexual orientation.”
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