The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed on August 26, 1920, finally granting women across the country suffrage, 27 years after Coloradans had approved giving women the right to vote. Now a Colorado-based group is taking the lead in placing a monument to suffrage, "Every Word We Utter," by Loveland-based artist Jane DeDecker, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.
To realize her vision, though, DeDecker knew she would also need a massive amount of help. Together with her friend Jody Shadduck-McNally, she founded the Every Word We Utter campaign to support the project. Last October the two women went to Washington, and over the span of two days, they presented their idea to the National Park Service, nearly a hundred congressional offices, and just about anyone else who would listen. Two weeks later, they got the call they were waiting for: A staffer in then-Representative Jared Polis's office told them he wanted to propose a bill to install the sculpture, which he did before he moved on to the Colorado governor's office.
But when that bill didn't go anywhere, newly elected Congressman Joe Neguse introduced a new measure on January 10, 2019, the hundredth anniversary of the day the 19th Amendment was introduced in the House of Representatives. "He helped us get the entire Colorado delegation of representatives to co-sign onto the bill and helped push for the hearing in the House subcommittee on May 22, 2019," says Shadduck-McNally/
On June 4, the hundredth anniversary of the 19th Amendment passing out of the U.S. Senate, Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner introduced companion legislation in the Senate.
“I see the suffragists as founders in exactly the same way as any of the people who wrote the Constitution: They challenged Americans to make our country what it ought to be. Monuments across our nation’s capital commemorate the founders of our country, and it’s time we pay tribute to the suffragists accordingly,” Bennet said in announcing the legislation. “One hundred years after Congress passed the 19th amendment, I can’t think of a more fitting way to commemorate the powerful work of the brave pioneers who made women’s suffrage a reality than with the first outdoor monument in their honor.”
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The twenty-foot-high bronze statue would embody the fight for those rights. Explains DeDecker: "'Every Word We Utter' depicts Sojourner Truth in 1850 speaking for women's rights, [and] Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony's determined friendship that started the constitutional change, which they never lived to see. Standing on the shoulders of these women who came before them, the monument depicts the next generation personified by Ida B. Wells in the 1913 parade with her insistent stand for racial/gender equality and Alice Paul's celebratory draping of the Ratification Flag when the 19th Amendment passed."
DeDecker and Shadduck-McNally hope that the Every Word We Utter campaign will not just make the sculpture a reality, but also become a true grassroots campaign furthering the rights of women. Because the fight is not yet over, DeDecker says. "As a woman sculptor, you see and feel the advantages that men have," she notes. "Viewers often ask me, 'Is this your husband's work?' I and other women are often overlooked. These women are beacons for our rights and don't deserve to be left out of history. We need to persevere for them, for us."
An exact location for the monument has not yet been determined yet, backers hope that it will be installed near the National Women's Party Headquarters, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Hart Senate Office Building. In the meantime, Every Word We Utter is raising funds to make the sculpture a reality by the hundredth anniversary of suffrage; find out more and make a donation to "Every Word We Utter" here.
Update: This story has been corrected to indicate that Jared Polis did introduce a bill before he moved to the Colorado governor's office, and that Representative Joe Neguse also introduced a bill in January.