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Monument sought to honor historic voting event in South St. Paul

Rep. Anne Claflin concludes her March 12 testimony in the House State Government Finance Division on HF1355, which would appropriate money for a women's suffrage monument in South St. Paul. Photo by Paul Battaglia

Certifying ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women in the United States the right to vote, occurred on Aug. 26, 1920.

One day later, Marguerite Newburgh cast an historic ballot in a South St. Paul waterworks bond election — the first vote cast by a woman in U.S. history.

As the 100th Anniversary of the event nears, dollars are being sought to memorialize an action many say brought the women’s suffrage movement full circle.

Sponsored by Rep. Anne Claflin (DFL-South St. Paul), HF1355 seeks $300,000 in bond proceeds to construct and install a monument at Lawshe Park in South St. Paul. The appropriation would not require a non-state contribution.

It was approved Tuesday by the House State Government Finance Division and sent to the House Ways and Means Committee with a recommended referral to the House Capital Investment Division.

Deb Griffith, the city’s community affairs liaison, said Lawshe Park is where City Hall stood — and the vote took place — in 1920.

“We don’t have a monument in South St. Paul to commemorate this,” she said. “We would like to make that really the mainstay and the highlight of our celebrations as we go forward to recognize that South St. Paul women were the first in the nation. … We would also include information there about the whole suffrage movement.”

Plans call for the monument to be unveiled Aug. 27, 2020 — 100 years to the day since Newburgh was the first of 90 women to vote in the election.

Supporters envision a bronze monument similar to one in Seneca, N.Y., where the women’s suffrage movement began. Griffith said statutes outside Target Field to honor Minnesota Twins’ greats and the Mary Tyler Moore statute in downtown Minneapolis each cost about $250,000.

Rep. Ginny Klevorn (DFL-Plymouth) reminded everyone that the amendment did not allow all women to vote.

“If we could also have some sort of acknowledgment that the black suffrage movement went on until the mid-60s,” she said. “It’s just something I would like to have on the record that we’re acknowledging.”

Rep. Steve Green (R-Fosston) suggested looking at other funding sources as well, such as Legacy Amendment funds.

“There are a lot of different funding sources you could use, but the original vote was on a bond so it seems like it might be appropriate in this case,” quipped Rep. Jamie Long (DFL-Mpls).

A companion, SF1560, sponsored by Sen. Matt Klein (DFL-Mendota Heights), awaits action by the Senate Capital Investment Committee.


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