First Lady Frances Wolf Sounds Justice Bell to Kick-Off 100th Anniversary of Women’s Suffrage in Pennsylvania
June 24, 2019
King of Prussia, PA – Today, First Lady Frances Wolf commemorated the 100th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s ratification of the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote by ringing the Justice Bell in Washington Memorial Hall in Valley Forge National Historical Park. The Justice Bell, a replica of the Liberty Bell, was created in 1915 to campaign for women’s suffrage across the nation.
The First Lady was joined by Alexandra “Sandy” Tatnall, a descendant of Katherine Wentworth Ruschenberger who commissioned the Justice Bell, and Maria Bomersbach, president of Washington Memorial Heritage Board of Directors and chair of Justice Bell 2020.
“It was an honor to ring the Justice Bell in recognition of the courageous suffragettes who led efforts in Pennsylvania and across the nation to give women the right to vote,” said First Lady Wolf. “These women stand as an example today of just how important it is for everyone to exercise the inalienable right to vote.”
The Pennsylvania General Assembly voted to provide women the right to vote on June 24, 1919. It became law nationally on August 26, 1920 after 36 states had ratified the 19th Amendment. Three-quarters of the states are required to ratify amendments to the U.S. Constitution; 48 states existed at the time.
The Justice Bell features the inscription, “Establish Justice. Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” After production, the bell was mounted on the bed of a truck and taken to all of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. Its clapper was chained, preventing the bell from ringing, to symbolize the silence of women who did not have the right to vote. The bell’s 5,000-mile road trip was designed to raise awareness for women’s suffrage in Pennsylvania.
In 1920, women took the bell on the road again, traveling to several states to raise support for the ratification of the 19th Amendment. After the 19th Amendment was ratified in August 1920, a celebration was held on the steps of Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The Justice Bell was rung 48 times – once for every state in the union.
A logo featuring the Justice Bell was created for organizations to use to mark all efforts to celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage. The PA 100th Anniversary of Suffrage logo is available for download. The state also created pa.gov/women-vote to serve as the destination for learning more about the state’s women who were integral in the suffrage movement. The site also compiles a list of suffrage events statewide and tells the story of suffrage’s Quaker roots.
Women’s suffrage centennial events will take place across Pennsylvania through the anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s full ratification in 2020. Participants are encouraged to share photos using the #PAWomensSuffrage100 on social media to mark the occasion.
First Lady Wolf is also reminding Pennsylvanians to register to vote. She is encouraging eligible citizens to take advantage of the quick and convenient Online Voter Registration. The state’s OVR application can be found at register.votesPA.com.
For more information about the national centennial celebrations and history of women’s suffrage, visit pa.gov/women-vote, the PA Commission for Women, and Drexel University’s Vision 2020 National Women’s Equality Initiative.