Good afternoon and thank you for your determination to hold this important event today regardless of the weather. When Jenny said that we would go forward rain, sleet, or snow, I did not anticipate that we would have all three in the same day!
Maybe your determination derives from the residual spirit of a group of women who gathered here 100 years ago, also determined, but that time they were determined to ensure that their community acknowledged their right to vote. They were empowered, excited, and ready to act because, five years prior, in 1915, Katherine Wentworth of the Pennsylvania Women’s Suffrage Association, commissioned the Justice Bell, also known as the Women’s Liberty Bell or the Suffrage Bell. Once it was done, they loaded in the back of a flatbed truck and drove it to all 67 Pennsylvania counties. But they chained the clapper so it would not ring to symbolize the silence imposed upon women through the denial of the right to vote.
When the 19th Amendment finally was ratified in 1920, Wentworth and her fellow suffragists gathered in Philadelphia to ring the bell 48 times to honor the 48 states of the Union at the time. All courthouses and churches in Pennsylvania were supposed to join in a statewide ringing at 4 pm that afternoon. The women of Gettysburg were gathered here, anxiously awaiting 4 pm. It came and passed. 4:01. 4:02. Then, as the Gettysburg Times reported “they decided that action would have to be taken by themselves.” They rushed the courthouse and proceeded to ring the bell “several minutes,” which, as the Times also reported, “the women thoroughly enjoyed . . . until officials arrived and relieved them.” Sometimes, you have to take matters into your own hands if you want to make a difference in your community. [excerpt]
This is the author's version of the work. This publication appears in Gettysburg College's institutional repository by permission of the copyright owner for personal use, not for redistribution.
Douds, Anne S., "Empowered Women Empower Women" (2020). Public Policy Faculty Publications. 3.