Recognizing today, June 24, as the 100th anniversary of Pennsylvania’s decision to pass the 19th Amendment, Chester County Commissioners Michelle Kichline and Terence Farrell celebrated with women who are 100-plus years “young” and who were infants in the year the equal rights decision was made.
On June 24, 1919, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania voted in favor of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, providing that the right to vote “shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
Today, Chester County has nearly 180,000 registered female voters, representing 51.5 percent of the county’s total voter registration number. Of the county’s current elected positions – Commissioners and Row Officers – women outnumber men two to one, and Chester County’s President Judge is a woman.
Chester County has strong historical connections to the lobbying campaign by suffragists. The county was the site of the first Pennsylvania women’s rights convention in 1852, and Chester County was the only county in southeastern Pennsylvania to support the (unsuccessful) State Referendum in 1915 to give women the right to vote.
To promote that unsuccessful referendum, Katharine Wentworth Ruschenberger of Tredyffrin Township commissioned a near-replica of the Liberty Bell, which became known as the “Justice Bell.” A flatbed truck carried the Justice Bell, with its bronze clapper silenced by chains (to symbolize women’s lack of an electoral vote) to all 67 Pennsylvania counties before it returned to its “home” in West Chester at the courthouse.
The clapper of the Justice Bell was finally unchained and rang out in September 1920, after the 19th Amendment was ratified.