Philadelphia Area To Host One Of The Country’s Most Iconic Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commemorations With Two-Day Event This August

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The Justice Bell, A Symbol For Women’s Right To Vote, Will Be Transported From Its Home At The Washington Memorial Chapel In Valley Forge To Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia; Events Sponsored By Justice Bell 2020

“I view this commemoration as an expansion of democracy. It is up to us to prepare a path of justice for women and men to follow in the next 100 years," said Maria Bomersbach

This August, as the nation celebrates the Women’s Suffrage Centennial, all eyes will be on the Philadelphia region as it hosts an unprecedented two-day commemoration featuring the Justice Bell. As part of this historic event, the “Women’s Liberty Bell” will be celebrated during multiple ceremonies from Tuesday, August 25 through Wednesday, August 26 as part of its ceremonious journey from its home at Washington Memorial Chapel, Valley Forge Park to Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.

The Justice Bell is prominently displayed in the atrium of the National Patriots Bell Tower of the Chapel and was the gift of Katharine Wentworth Ruschenberger of Strafford, Chester County, PA. In 1915, Ruschenberger commissioned the casting similar to the Liberty Bell, chained the Bell to show that women’s votes were silenced and among other changes, added the inscription “Establish Justice” to call attention to the fight for women’s suffrage.

As the most pivotal symbol in women’s rights history, the Justice Bell will rightfully take center stage, once again, during Philadelphia’s weekend commemoration according to Maria Bomersbach, president of Washington Memorial Heritage Board of Directors and chair of Justice Bell 2020.

“I am honored to Chair this once in a lifetime event,” said Bomersbach. “Ruschenberger said the women’s liberty bell announced the completion of democracy. I view this commemoration as an expansion of democracy. It is up to us to prepare a path of justice for women and men to follow in the next 100 years.”

The festivities will kick off in an “exciting and inspiring way” Tuesday, August 25 as nationally acclaimed female skydivers of “The Highlight Pro Team,” part of the Women’s Skydiving Network’s Project 19 initiative, are scheduled to perform a special jump at the Freedoms Foundation At Valley Forge (1601 Valley Forge Rd, Valley Forge, PA) at approximately 4 PM to pay tribute to the passage of the 19th Amendment and deliver a special champagne bottle to christen the Justice Bell’s journey.

After the jump, the all-female team of skydivers will lead a caravan one mile down the road to the National Patriots Bell Tower at Washington Memorial Chapel in Valley Forge National Historic Park (2000 Valley Forge Park Rd, Valley Forge, PA). An old-fashioned suffrage program will be held from 6PM to 8PM with VIPs and music before the Justice Bell departs for its journey to Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia.

The celebration will continue Wednesday, August 26 from 12PM to 2PM in front of Independence National Historical Park in partnership with the Park and Vision 2020’s “Toast To Tenacity”, PA Daughters of American Revolution, League of Women Voters and many other patriotic and women’s organizations. The Bell will be unchained and rung ceremoniously with music, dignitaries and speakers. After the ceremony, the Bell will be transported to a secure area of the park for ongoing activities and public display until September 30.

Beth Watkins, State Regent, PA Daughters of American Revolution stated “Across this commonwealth, DAR members are celebrating the centennial passage of the 19th amendment. We are proud to retell the story of this historic event. The tower in which the bell resides was dedicated in 1953 after 10 years of fundraising by the DAR. Rising 114 feet up and overlooking Valley Forge National Park, it also holds one of the most unique carillons in the world.”

The public is welcome and encouraged to attend both events. Times are subject to change pending further planning.

Susan Carty, Board Member, League of Women Voters, US stated “We are still in the fight to demand democracy.”

The Justice Bell 2020 Committee comprises leadership from the following organizations:

  • Drexel University Vision 2020: Women 100
  • Descendants of Katharine Wentworth Ruschenberger
  • Washington Memorial Heritage
  • Washington Memorial Chapel
  • League of Women Voters
  • Daughters of the American Revolution
  • Cedar Crest College
  • Chester County Historical Society
  • Delta Sigma Theta
  • The Elevator Group
  • Freedoms Foundation of Valley Forge
  • Descendants of Katharine Wentworth Ruschenberger
  • Constitution Center
  • Independence Historical Trust
  • Washington Memorial Heritage
  • National Park Service
  • Valley Forge Park Alliance
  • Independence National Historical Park

About The Justice Bell
The Justice Bell began touring Pennsylvania in June 1915, covering more than 5,000 miles by November 2 of that year. While touring, the clapper was chained to the side of the Bell symbolizing the fact that women had no voice in choosing their government; it would not ring until 1920 when women won the right to vote. The tour was timed to support the passage of Amendment #1 to the then-current Pennsylvania State Constitution.

When Amendment #1 did not pass, and it became evident to suffragists that state legislatures were not going to pass voting rights, the Justice Bell was used to support the movement for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution. It traveled to Chicago and Washington, DC, as well as other localities. The 19th Amendment was proposed on June 5, 1919. Ratification took place on August 18 and was certified on Women’s Equality Day, August 26, 1920. On September 25, 1920, the clapper of the Bell was unchained at a celebration held in Independence Square in Philadelphia. A figure dressed as Lady Justice approached and rang the Bell to celebrate the passage of the amendment and Justice for women through the right to vote.

The Justice Bell makes its home at Washington Memorial Chapel Rt. 23, Valley Forge National Park, Valley Forge, PA.

About Vision 2020

Vision 2020 is a national, non-partisan women’s equality coalition headquartered at Drexel University’s Institute for Women’s Health and Leadership. The coalition is comprised of individuals and organizations in all 50 states working together for women’s economic, political and social equality in the United States.

Vision 2020’s Women 100 is a celebration of American women during the year 2020, when we mark the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution: women’s right to vote. Throughout 2020, Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy, will be to home to programs and events while members of the Vision 2020 national coalition will host sister programs across the country in support of the centennial commemoration.

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Denise Kovalevich
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