Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand delivered the keynote speech for the dedication of the Ripples of Change statues honoring the legacy of the suffrage movement in Seneca Falls, where the Seneca Falls Convention was held in 1848, and the brave women who risked their lives so that all women, regardless of race or status, could have the right to vote.Senator Gillibrand was an original cosponsor of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission Act, which established the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission and honored the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage in 2020. The commission partnered with the Town of Seneca Falls for a one-of-a-kind commemorative centennial set of statues to bring to life the earliest chapters in the story of women’s fight for the vote. Ripples of Change, designed by renowned sculptor Jane DeDecker, depict four activists whose work spanned generations, including Laura Cornelius Kellogg, Harriet Tubman, Martha Coffin Wright, and Sojourner Truth. The statues are a commitment to ensuring the visibility of women’s stories for the next 100 years, to acknowledging the complexities of an imperfect but powerful movement for change, and to inspiring a new generation of leaders.
“It is an honor to join the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission here in Seneca Falls – the birthplace of women’s suffrage – to commemorate the brave and bold women who fought nobly to secure the right to vote. We just recently celebrated the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage and the best way to honor the great women who came before us is to march on and continue their work,” said Senator Gillibrand. “There is still work to be done to ensure that every vote is counted, and I am working hard in the Senate to secure these rights. I commend artist and sculptor Jane DeDecker for her beautiful work and thank everyone who took part in today’s ceremony to recognize the heroic achievements of Laura Cornelius Kellogg, Harriet Tubman, Martha Coffin Wright, and Sojourner Truth, who all played pivotal roles in the women’s rights movement.”
“These four beautiful statues remind us of the countless women who have made ripples of change in our state and our nation,” said New York State Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin. “As a part of the administration of the first female Governor of the state of New York I am reminded of the incredible impact that these female leaders have had and will continue to have for generations to come I want to thank the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission partnered with the Town of Seneca Falls and the sculptor Janet DeDecker, for their work in highlighting these historical women and ensuring that we do not forget the shoulders we stand upon.”
“The Ripples of Change Statue is a diverse and inclusive statue of women who were fierce suffragists who also knew they and women like them would not be included in the franchise to expand the right to vote,” said Karen Hill, President and CEO of the Harriet Tubman Home. “The Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission which sponsored the statue was blessed to have the determined support of Senator Gillibrand behind its formation. A lot has been accomplished in 100 years but there is so much more that needs to be done to expand and protect the voting rights for all eligible Americans.”
The State of New York was the birthplace of the women’s suffrage movement and it hosts some of the most legendary landmarks that helped shape this monumental gain in America’s history. New York was a powerful force in the movement for equal rights for women and the passage and ratification of the 19th amendment. Senator Gillibrand fought for the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission Act for New York to be recognized as an instrumental part in the struggle for women’s suffrage by providing grant funding for programs and activities that commemorate the efforts of the movement and the role of New Yorkers who promoted the core values of our democracy. Below are the bios of the women recognized during today’s event:
Harriet Tubman was reverently known as the Moses of Her People. As a runaway slave, she returned thirteen times to free her family and dozens of other enslaved people. Once she was free herself, Harriet made the conscious decision to step down into the dangers of slavery to help her fellow man even though she was not ‘free’ herself as a woman. Harriet used Seneca Falls as a stop on the Underground Railroad, but eventually settled in nearby Auburn, New York.
Sojourner Truth was a preacher, an abolitionist, and an activist who was not only known for her lively speaking and singing abilities, but also for “stirring the waters” to inspire others to be a part of the change towards equality for all.
Laura Cornelius Kellogg was a member of the Oneida Nation and an activist, author, suffrage supporter, and founder of the Society of American Indians. Laura came from a distinguished lineage of Haudenosaunee traditional leaders.
Martha Coffin Wright spent her whole life devoted to activism and helped to facilitate the historic Seneca Falls Women’s Rights Convention. Martha and her fellow Quakers refused to wear cotton, a product of slavery. This deliberate “small” act to produce textiles rather than slave-produced cotton gave rise to the Seneca Woolen Mill, which is now the home of the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Senator Gillibrand is a steadfast champion in the Senate for women’s rights. In addition to the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission Act, Senator Gillibrand supported the appointment of Karen Hill, President and CEO of the Harriet Tubman Home (HTH), to the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission in 2017. She was also an original cosponsor of the bipartisan Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorative Coin Act that passed Congress in 2019, which created a silver minted coin in honor of the centennial anniversary of the 19th amendment.
The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s 2019 letter to the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission may be found here.