An artist’s rendering of the future Turning Point Suffragist Memorial in Occoquan, Virginia.
Courtesy of/Robert E. Beach Architects

A new memorial to American suffragists breaks ground Thursday in Lorton, Virginia, near the site where women involved in the struggle for the right to vote were brutally imprisoned in the late 1910s. It is scheduled to open next year on Aug. 26, the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment’s official certification.

The Turning Point Suffragist Memorial will include 19 learning stations — a nod to the amendment that prohibits the government from denying the right to vote on the basis of sex. The site also will feature a meditation garden, walking paths and an early 20th century rail car where visitors can “experience how the suffragists traveled throughout the country advocating for voting rights for all women,” according to the memorial’s website.

The memorial’s location in Occoquan Regional Park is just a few minutes’ walk away from the Occoquan Workhouse (since reimagined as an arts center), where suffragists were routinely imprisoned between 1917 and 1919.

The women were part of a months-long picketing effort in front of the White House to protest President Woodrow Wilson’s unwillingness to support women’s suffrage.

The conditions in the workhouse were terrible. Rats and maggots ruled the cells, and some suffragists were force-fed after starting hunger strikes to protest their treatment.

The groundbreaking coincides with one event in particular: The 102nd anniversary of the “Night of Terror.” On Nov. 14, 1917, 33 suffragists were arrested and brought to the prison, where they were shackled, beaten and denied medical care. News of their experiences in the prison reportedly influenced Wilson’s eventual change of heart; he publicly endorsed suffrage for the first time the following year.

Descendants of some of the women imprisoned at Occoquan plan to attend Thursday’s groundbreaking.

Source: Women’s Suffrage Memorial Breaks Ground In Northern Virginia : NPR

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