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Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial, St. Paul

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The Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial on the northeast corner of the upper state capitol mall, 2019. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.

The Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial on the northeast corner of the upper state capitol mall, 2019. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.

In the summer of 1994, the League of Women Voters of Minnesota convened a group of thirty women to form the Nineteenth Amendment Celebration Committee. The committee organized events around the seventy-fifth anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, giving women the right to vote. They left a lasting legacy in the form of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial Garden. It was the first monument to a movement approved for the capitol mall.

Minnesota was the fifteenth state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment on September 8, 1919. It wasn’t until Tennessee ratified it on August 18, 1920, that it attained the three-fifths majority of states needed to amend the constitution. US Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby certified the amendment on August 26.

Minnesota’s Nineteenth Amendment Celebration Committee hosted a successful seventy-fifth anniversary celebration in 1995. Programs included suffrage-themed performances and a “Women Win the Vote Day” at the state fair. The committee also commissioned a curriculum on woman suffrage for elementary and high school students created by the Upper Midwest Women’s History Center.

Led by historian Barbara Stuhler, the committee considered ideas for a memorial that would be a fitting legacy for the milestone anniversary. They favored a garden on the state capitol grounds with plants native to Minnesota featuring the suffrage colors of yellow and white. The yellow daffodil, a traditional symbol of the suffrage movement, figured prominently in the plan.

The committee worked with the Capitol Area Architectural Planning Board (CAAPB) for permission to proceed with the memorial and began fundraising. They kicked off the project at the final anniversary event held at the Minneapolis Women’s Club in October 1995.

In March 1996, the Minnesota state legislature approved $250,000 for the planning and construction of the memorial. The appropriation required a matching grant of $50,000 raised from private and corporate donors.

Over the summer, the CAAPB sponsored a juried design competition for the memorial. They expected applicants to have an interest in women’s history. Female designers were especially encouraged to enter.

The planning committee outlined a number of design considerations. They wanted an accessible public memorial, no larger than 150 feet by 100 feet, for a location in the northeast corner of the lower capitol mall. The design should incorporate a path and at least one bench. Plantings could be flowers, shrubs, or trees, in the suffrage movement palette of yellow or gold and white, with some green and purple. The memorial should be easy to maintain and offer landscape interest year-round. It also had to fit in with other design elements on the mall.

The committee received six proposals. The judges awarded the commission and a prize of $5,000 to architects Ralph Nelson, Raveevarn Choksombachai, and design associate Martha McQuade of LOOM Studio, and landscape designer Roger Grothe of Aloha Landscaping, for their proposal, “Garden of Time: Landscape of Change.”

The winning design featured a garden with twenty-three beds and nine smaller plots of native prairie and woodland plantings separated by lines of pavers. It included a ninety-foot steel trellis inscribed with the names of twenty-five key Minnesota suffragists. A series of steel tablets shared the story of the fight for woman suffrage in Minnesota.

The committee asked for more funding during the 1997 legislative session. The senate included the request in a state government finance bill, but it was line item vetoed by Governor Arne Carlson. The following April, the governor approved a final $150,000 for completion of the memorial. Overall, the state provided $400,000 and the committee raised more than $100,000 in non-state funds.

A groundbreaking ceremony on August 26, 1998, marked the beginning of construction. The memorial was dedicated on August 26, 2000, the eightieth anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. Those attending enjoyed live music, an ice cream social, and a children’s activity. The committee sent special invitations to those involved with the project, and included a yellow “thank you” button bearing the name of one of the twenty-five suffragists featured in the memorial.

Many of the original plants failed to thrive. In 2004, Aloha Landscaping refurbished the garden with many new plants, including hardy perennials, groundcovers, and grasses. A rededication took place on August 24, 2004.

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151.K.16.9B (Box 11) and 151.K.16.10F (Box 12)
Barbara Stuhler papers, 1945–2006
Manuscripts Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Personal papers documenting the professional career, research interest, publications, and organizational activities of a University of Minnesota continuing education dean and professor who was interested in world affairs and was active in the League of Women Voters.
http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00496.xml

Guthrey, Molly. “The Fight to Vote.” St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 19, 2000.

Hostetter, Janet, photographer. “Honoring Those Who Went First.” St. Paul Pioneer Press, August 27, 1998.

143.B.17.3B Box 19
League of Women Voters of Minnesota records, 1919–2012
Manuscripts Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Records of a non-partisan political organization formed to encourage informed and active participation in government and to influence public policy through education and advocacy.
http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00191.xml

“Memorial Groundbreaking for Groundbreaking Women.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 27, 1998.

Minnesota Legislative Reference Library. Minnesota Women’s Legislative Timeline.
https://www.leg.state.mn.us/lrl/womenstimeline/details?recid=2

“Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial.” [Memorial booklet.] Minnesota: N.p., 2000.

143.F.2.7B Box 2
Organizational records, 1980–1999
Upper Midwest Women’s History Center
Manuscripts Collection, Minnesota Historical Society, St. Paul
Description: Records and curriculum material of the Upper Midwest Women’s History Center, a regional teacher-training center founded in Minnesota that helped educators integrate women’s curriculum into regular history classes.
http://www.mnhs.org/library/findaids/00734.xml

Placeography. Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial, Cedar Avenue at Martin Luther King Boulevard, St. Paul
http://www.placeography.org/index.php/Minnesota_Woman_Suffrage_Memorial%2C_Cedar_Avenue_at_Martin_Luther_King_Boulevard%2C_Saint_Paul%2C_Minnesota

“Plan for Woman Suffrage Garden Rooted in Groundbreaking History.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 25, 1996.

Salisbury, Bill. “As Controversy Swirls Around Public Monuments Elsewhere, Minnesota Officials Want to Restore Theirs.” TwinCities.com, October 1, 2017.
https://www.twincities.com/2017/10/01/as-controversy-swirls-around-public-monuments-elsewhere-minnesota-officials-want-to-restore-theirs/

Session Laws of Minnesota for 1996, Chapter 390, Section 5. Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board.
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/1996/0/Session+Law/Chapter/390/1996-04-03%2000:00:00+00:00/pdf

Session Laws of Minnesota for 1997, Chapter 202, Section 14. Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board.
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/1997/0/Session+Law/Chapter/202/1997-05-19%2000:00:00+00:00/pdf

Session Laws of Minnesota for 1998, Chapter 404, Section 14, Subdivision 7. Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board.
https://www.revisor.mn.gov/laws/1998/0/Session+Law/Chapter/404/1998-04-09%2000:00:00+00:00/pdf

“They Fought for the Vote.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 16, 2000.

United State House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives. Minnesota Ratifies 19th Amendment.
https://history.house.gov/HouseRecord/Detail/15032436205

“Women’s Garden: Preserving the Memory of Pioneers.” Minneapolis Star Tribune, August 26, 1998.

Related Images

The Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial on the northeast corner of the upper state capitol mall, 2019. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.
The Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial on the northeast corner of the upper state capitol mall, 2019. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.
Architect’s rendering of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial Garden, from the memorial dedication booklet, 2000. LOOM Studio.
Architect’s rendering of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial Garden, from the memorial dedication booklet, 2000. LOOM Studio.
Architect’s rendering of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial Garden, from the memorial dedication booklet, 2000. LOOM Studio.
Architect’s rendering of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial Garden, from the memorial dedication booklet, 2000. LOOM Studio.
The memorial features a steel trellis inscribed with the names of twenty-five prominent Minnesota suffragists, including Alice Ames Winter, Marguerite Milton Wells, and Myrtle Cain. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.
The memorial features a steel trellis inscribed with the names of twenty-five prominent Minnesota suffragists, including Alice Ames Winter, Marguerite Milton Wells, and Myrtle Cain. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.
Steel tablet with the memorial dedication, 2019. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.
Steel tablet with the memorial dedication, 2019. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.
Steel tablet showing the civil and social rights ladder women had to climb to achieve suffrage. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.
Steel tablet showing the civil and social rights ladder women had to climb to achieve suffrage. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.
Detail of a steel tablet featuring an image of the memorial trellis and a poem from suffragist Clara Hampson Ueland’s scrapbook. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.
Detail of a steel tablet featuring an image of the memorial trellis and a poem from suffragist Clara Hampson Ueland’s scrapbook. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.
A view of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial Garden, looking northeast, 2019. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.
A view of the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial Garden, looking northeast, 2019. Photo by Linda A. Cameron.

Turning Point

In March 1996, the Minnesota state legislature appropriates $250,000 for planning and construction of a Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial on the state capitol mall.

Chronology

September 8, 1919

Minnesota becomes the fifteenth state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment, which in theory gives all women full suffrage. Though white women begin to vote, poll taxes and literary tests continue to hold back women of color.

August 26, 1920

The Nineteenth Amendment is added to the US Constitution after the state of Tennessee becomes the thirty-sixth state to ratify the measure, giving it the three-fifths state approval needed.

1994

Thirty women form the Nineteenth Amendment Committee to plan a celebration for the seventy-fifth anniversary of Minnesota’s ratification of the amendment.

June 1995

The Nineteenth Amendment Committee begins to discuss a legacy project involving plantings of daffodils and a few trees on the capitol mall.

August 26, 1995

The Nineteenth Amendment Committee hosts “Women Win the Vote Day” at the Minnesota State Fair in celebration of Women’s Equality Day, the seventy-fifth anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment.

March 1996

The Minnesota state legislature appropriates $250,000 for the planning and construction of the memorial. The last $50,000 is contingent upon a match of private and corporate donations.

March 1, 1996

A competition for the design of the memorial is announced.

May 1, 1996

The memorial committee receives six design proposals by the deadline.

August 1996

The project is awarded to architects Ralph Nelson, Raveevarn Choksombachai (principals), and Martha McQuade (design associate) of LOOM, with landscaping by Roger Grothe of Aloha Landscaping for Garden of Time: Landscape of Change. The prize is $5,000.

April 1998

The state legislature appropriates a final $150,000 for completion of the memorial, and Governor Carlson approves it.

August 26, 1998

Ground is broken for the suffrage memorial, the first monument to a movement to be approved for the Capitol Mall.

1998

The LOOM design team wins an award from Progressive Architecture magazine for their work on the memorial.

January 2000

Roger Grothe of Aloha Landscaping wins an excellence in landscaping award from the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association for his work on the memorial garden.

August 26, 2000

The Minnesota Woman Suffrage Memorial Garden is dedicated on the grounds of the state capitol, the eightieth anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the US Constitution.

August 24, 2004

The garden is rededicated with substantial new plantings.