Chris Schulz Published

Committee Co-Chairs Discuss Women’s History, Suffrage And Memorial


In 2020, communities across the country made plans to celebrate the centennial of the 19th amendment and the expansion of voting rights to women. The COVID-19 pandemic put an end to those plans but now, the West Virginia Suffragist Memorial Committee is asking the public to help create a permanent celebration of the historic event. The committee’s co-chairs Renate Pore and Susan Pierce sat down with reporter Chris Schulz to discuss their efforts.

Schulz: How did the committee come to be? Renata, why don’t we start with you.

Pore: In 2019, I volunteered to promote the centennial of women’s right to vote. We started doing research about the West Virginia experience and ratifying women’s right to vote, and we found it was a really pretty dramatic, pretty exciting, pretty intense kind of an experience. We had some events, but 2020 turned out to be a bust of the year with COVID.

But we found that many other states had memorials to women’s suffrage, then we should have one too, and, and the work of women in West Virginia needs to be reflected on the Capitol grounds. So we went to the legislature, actually, and we got a resolution passed, and it was very popular. The legislators, for the most part, were real enthusiastic.

Schulz: Susan,do you have anything to add to that?

Pierce: I think our committee is composed of dedicated women who want to see women’s right to vote memorialized on the campus. So I think adding a memorial to our campus will broaden the picture of women’s role in West Virginia’s history. And this is a very important role in our history, too.

Schulz: Can you tell me a little bit more about who the suffragettes were and why you wanted to create this memorial?

Pierce: I think it’s important to have a memorial. During the centennial, we looked for resources that were associated with women’s history and with the women’s suffrage movement. And, frankly, unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot out there that have survived.

And actually, if anyone who’s listening says, “Well, I know of so and so’s house who was a sufferer just in my hometown,” I would love to hear from them.

The whole idea of suffrage and that basic right of Americans to be able to vote, to be able to participate in government, that story needs to be told somehow. And I think the memorial will take us to a place that we can interpret that story and we can remember that story and not forget it, especially in these times.

Schulz: Renate, do you have anything to add to that?

Pore: As early as 1867, there were leaders here in this state who wanted to give women the vote. We’ve identified about 111 suffragists by name here in the state, they were down at the legislature, lobbying.

Other states, they were often more radical. In West Virginia, we were a little more conservative and stuck to the regular processes of government. Whereas in Washington, D.C. you had people dressing up as goddesses and marching down the Pennsylvania Avenue and being arrested and thrown into jail and stuff, we didn’t have that kind of action here in West Virginia. But we had women who were really, really dedicated.

When ratification passed in West Virginia, and that’s a whole great story because it was not a done deal. Thirty-sixstates needed to ratify the amendment to the Constitution. When West Virginia came up, we were the 34th state. I will maintain that if it had failed in West Virginia it would have lost the momentum and would not have passed that year.

The women’s right to vote was the largest expansion of democracy in our history. We’re in an election year, and we want to remind people how hard people fought for the right to vote and how important it is and how important it is now, and that we still need to fight for it.

Schulz: Susan, why asked for public input,

Pierce: I think the public can influence the appearance of the memorial. I think it also helps them continue to keep it in front of them that this is an important issue and participating in it becomes ownership of the statue, of the sculpture, whatever it becomes. That it is theirs, not just individuals who wanted to do something to celebrate the centennial. That it becomes ours. Everyone’s.

Schulz: So Renata, what would you like to add?

Pore: I see the public input process as part of the educational process of raising consciousness about women’s right to vote, the importance of the vote, the long hard struggle for women. I always am surprised at how people have such interesting ideas. And we’re just a small group of people, nine people appointed by the governor and we don’t have all the answers or know what’s best. So we’re looking to see all the creative minds and thinkers out there and what they think about it.

Pierce: I would point out though, that in looking at this memorial and what it will look like, a lot of the memorials are personal. It reflects the people of the movement and that’s not necessarily what we’re looking for. It can be something that is imaginative and abstract to bring in the ideas of what it means to have the vote and and what it means to be a woman. So I hope people think outside the typical monument or sculpture of one person, there were many people that were involved in this movement in West Virginia. And we certainly had our leaders that need to be recognized, but I hope everyone is creative in how they think about the process.

Schulz: Where does the process go from here? I think you said on your brochure that you wanted to have a design by December?

Pore: We’re going to start looking for an artist and some ideas. This is a kind of a pretty wide open public process right now, but once we have a design, it probably won’t be by December, but by early next year, we may have three different designs and then we’ll take that to the public again to choose among a more limited option. So maybe by next spring, we’ll be having a design. We’ll then do fundraising and ask for money to actually build out this design. My goal is to, before the election of 2024, to have an unveiling and make a big deal about the importance of voting.

Those interested in giving their input can fill out the committee’s brochure and mail it to:

WVWC, 100 Dee Drive, Charleston, WV 25311. Ideas can also be shared with SMC Co-Chair Renate E. Pore at or at 304-444-9681.

More information can be found at