Historic marker recognizes Huntsville’s role in women’s suffrage movement
Published on May 19, 2021
Mayor Tommy Battle joined the Historic Huntsville Foundation (HHF) and other state and local preservation officials Wednesday to dedicate a historic marker celebrating Huntsville’s involvement in the women’s suffrage movement.
The public can view the marker, provided by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites (NCWHS), at the historic Central YMCA building on Greene Street in downtown Huntsville. The site was chosen because two important meetings were held there by women fighting for their right to vote.
“We’re putting out markers that are very special to our city and show the value of women being able to vote,” Mayor Battle said. “This is part of our city, this is part of our heritage and this is part of our history and it’s something that makes us all very, very proud.”
HHF Executive Director Donna Castellano said Huntsville’s role in the women’s suffrage movement dates back to 1895. That year, Susan B. Anthony and Carrie Chapman Catt spoke at Huntsville City Hall when it was still at the corner of Washington Street and Clinton Avenue.
The YMCA was later the site of two important events – a meeting of the Huntsville Equal Suffrage Association in 1912 and the annual convention of the Alabama Equal Suffrage Association in 1914. Six years later, on Aug. 18, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote.
Castellano explained that while much has changed over the last century, Huntsville’s commitment to preserving history and saving historic structures like the former YMCA had not wavered.
“You can tell a lot about a city and community by the history they bring forward and recognize,” she said. “We’re proud to be in a city and community where women’s suffrage is important. We think this is something that demands our attention and time, and it’s been wonderful to work with community partners, state partners and national partners to bring this forward.”
The next generation
Mother and daughter Janet Watson and Rebekah McKinney, who own the former YMCA building, said they are proud of the site’s connection to the women’s suffrage movement. Watson then introduced young Lily Slaton, whom Watson described as a future voter and activist.
“She and her mother were walking along here going to Greene Street Market and she said, ‘Look mom, it’s a marker that says Votes for Women,’ and she said, ‘I want my picture made with it,’” Watson said. “I’m proud she’s here with us today and she’s going to be a leader in our community, and our state and our nation.”
About the marker
Huntsville’s marker is part of a larger effort by the Pomeroy Foundation and NCWHS to create a National Votes for Women Trail (NVWT) in all 50 states. The Historical Marker subcommittee of the AWSCC identified and nominated six Alabama sites for inclusion in the NVWT. The sites are located across the state in Huntsville, Decatur, Birmingham, Selma, Tuskegee and Mobile.
“Our participation in the National Votes for Women Trail expanded our understanding of the ways Huntsville women shaped our state and national history,” Castellano said. “As a result, HHF will debut three more historic markers in 2021 that recognize the contributions of Huntsville women and ensure their place in our national history.”
The remaining markers will honor the first Madison County woman elected to public office, six Black women who overcame discriminatory regulations and registered to vote in 1920, and Dr. Frances Roberts, a driving force in Alabama’s historic preservation movement.