Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth Cady Stanton helped lead the battle for women’s rights.

Fairfax County supervisors, after first being chided by one member, agreed July 28 that all the board’s members would sign a proclamation declaring this August as “Women’s Suffrage Month” in the county.

The U.S. Senate on July 2 passed a bipartisan resolution designating August 2020 as National Women’s Suffrage Month in honor of the centennial of the 19th Amendment’s ratification, which gave U.S. women the right to vote nationwide.

“We want to shine the spotlight on the importance of women’s suffrage and the Equal Rights Amendment,” said Supervisor Daniel Storck (D-Mount Vernon), who co-sponsored the board matter with Chairman Jeff McKay (D). “Ratification of the 19th Amendment led to the largest single one-day increase of potential voters in the history of the United States.”

Fairfax County played a key role in the history of women’s suffrage, said Storck, citing the scores of suffragettes  who were imprisoned in Lorton in 1917 after picketing the White House and demanding the right to vote.

“These women were arrested, tried, convicted and imprisoned for terms up to seven months,” Storck said. “They were force-fed, locked in solitary confinement and brutalized. When word leaked out of this unconscionable treatment, President Wilson was forced to ask Congress to consider a constitutional amendment.”

“Suffrage as a full-fledged political reform effort took five generations of optimism and commitment to achieve,” he said. “The movement had its own philosophers, generals, organizers, foot soldiers and writers.”

The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial Association has broken ground on a women’s memorial with 19 education stations in Occoquan Regional Park. The pandemic and other impediments delayed construction of the memorial, which originally had been scheduled for dedication on Aug. 26, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s ratification, Stork said.

The memorial is intended to educate, inspire and empower present and future generations to remain vigilant in the quest for liberty, freedom and equality,” he said.

After Storck asked the board, without objection, to approve the designation of Women’s Suffrage Month, Supervisor Penelope Gross (D-Mason) lodged a complaint.

“The role of women needs to be recognized [with] more than just two men’s signatures on the proclamation,” she said.

“There are three women on this board and none of us was asked to co-sponsor this board matter.,” Gross said.  “I’m a little disappointed and I think actually that rather than just a proclamation with the chairman’s and Supervisor Storck’s signatures, it ought to be the entire board.”

Storck readily agreed.

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