Women’s History Month: A Women’s Suffrage Memorial on the National Mall

Posted by on Mar 23, 2023 in Stuff You Should Know, Top Stories, United States

In 1920, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which granted white women the right to vote in the United States. The journey to get there was long and difficult–and often unrecognized. But that’s about to change, as Congress begins the process of creating a monument honoring women’s suffrage, or the right to vote, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Here, btw takes a closer look at this ongoing process, and why it matters. 

The Vision 

Suffrage-era 'Clarion' button with stars, with the text 'Votes For Women, ' and featuring Caroline Watt's 'Bugler Girl' or 'Clarion Girl' design
Suffrage-era ‘Clarion’ button, with the text ‘Votes For Women.’

In 2020, one hundred years after white women gained the right to vote, the U.S. Congress created the National Women’s Suffrage Monument Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to build a monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., to recognize the importance of the suffrage movement. The monument will also recognize the roles that African American women and other woman of color played in the suffrage movement.  

Why is this monument so important? Despite their countless contributions to all aspects of American history, fewer than five percent of outdoor monuments in the nation’s capital are devoted specifically to women. There are no monuments to women on the National Mall, which is the most-visited National Park in the United States. (The National Mall is the land in the center of Washington, D.C., that stretches from the U.S. Capitol Building to the Potomac River. It features famous monuments such as the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial, the World War II and Korean War Veterans Memorials, and the Martin Luther King, Jr. and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.) 

The monument’s design has not been determined. The plan, however, is that it will depict those women who participated in the suffrage movement, such as Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and others.  

From Vision to Creation 

The monument won’t be built in the near future, however. Though the Women’s Suffrage National Monument Foundation was created by Congress in 2020, there are still many years of fundraising, design work, and construction ahead. It’s estimated that the monument will be completed and unveiled in the summer of 2027.  

Congress also needs to choose a location for this new addition to the National Mall. This year, on March 1, 2023, (the first day of Women’s History Month), a bipartisan committee in the House of Representatives introduced a bill called the “Women’s Suffrage National Monument Location Act.” This committee will locate a spot for the monument on the National Mall.  

A Unifying Project 

The Women’s Suffrage National Monument Foundation has enjoyed widespread support. In fact, the honorary chairs of the foundation are the six living First Ladies of the United States: Jill Biden, Melania Trump, Michelle Obama, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Laura Bush, and Rosalynn Carter. The Foundation’s Council of Ambassadors includes filmmakers such as Ken Burns; writers such as Joy Harjo; performers such as Retta; and other athletes, artists, philanthropists, and legislators from across the political spectrum.  

What Do You Think? Imagine that you have been tasked with designing the Women’s Suffrage National Monument. What do you think it should look like? Create a rough sketch of the monument. Then write a paragraph describing your monument and explaining your design. (You may wish to use other existing monuments to women’s suffrage for inspiration, such as the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument in Manhattan’s Central Park; the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial in St. Paul; or the Tennessee Woman Suffrage Memorial in Knoxville.)