Garden at election offices commemorates amendment granting women right to vote

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FREEHOLD TOWNSHIP — Monmouth County officials have unveiled a site they are calling the 19th Amendment Centennial Commemorative Garden at the county’s election offices in Freehold Township.

The garden, which was unveiled to the public on Oct. 6, is a tribute of the passage of the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution which states that, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

The amendment, which was approved by the U.S. Senate on June 4, 1919 and ratified in August 1920, guaranteed women the right to vote.

The county’s creation of the commemorative garden began with a groundbreaking ceremony on Aug. 26, 2020, which is the date that marked the 100th anniversary of the formal adoption of the 19th Amendment, according to a press release.

The location includes a sitting area, a plaque dedicated to the “courageous women who fought tirelessly to demand equal voting rights, and to the significant role New Jersey and Monmouth County played in the women’s suffrage movement,” and an abundance of yellow flowers.

“We celebrated such an important milestone in our country’s history,” Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon said. “Two years ago we were in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and unfortunately the pandemic contributed to a slight delay in this project, but I am so excited we are now ready to cut the ribbon after a tremendous amount of design planning and preparation by so many individuals.”

Hanlon went on to inform the guests who gathered for the ceremony that “you might be wondering why (there are) yellow flowers. In 1867, yellow or gold became a color of the suffrage movement when Kansas suffragists adopted the sunflower as their state flower as a symbol of their campaign. Yellow or gold became associated with the nation’s fight for women’s suffrage (the right to vote) as it was described as the color of light and a torch that guides our purpose.”

During his remarks to the attendees, Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners Director Thomas A. Arnone said, “It takes time for good things to happen. But we are here today and this project would not have been possible without the vision of Monmouth County officials and employees. I want to personally thank our county clerk for spearheading this project and I am honored to work with such great women in Monmouth County.”

Members of Congress officially passed the 19th Amendment on June 4, 1919. Just over a year later, the amendment was officially ratified on Aug. 18, 1920, according to archives.gov. New Jersey was the 29th state to vote to ratify the 19th Amendment on Feb. 9, 1920.

Susan Kiley, the deputy director of the Monmouth County Board of County Commissioners, read the 19th Amendment and said, “On the day the amendment was ratified, as women, that was a monumental day for us. Achieving these milestones required a lengthy and difficult struggle toward victory.”

Hanlon and the county commissioners then cut the ribbon to officially open the commemorative garden and unveiled the plaque that honors the amendment.

Members of the public may visit the 19th Amendment Centennial Commemorative Garden at the Monmouth County election offices, 300 Halls Mill Road, Freehold Township.