Across from the courthouse in Beach, N.D., a noticeable crowd gathered. More than 30 came with lawn chairs, sat in benches or stood in the lawn of the Golden Valley County Museum on Saturday to witness an event 100 years in the making.
In the bordertown on the far western edge of North Dakota, a historical marker was erected honoring Clara Darrow, an advocate and suffrage leader, who visited Beach in 1914.
The dedication was led by Judy Ridenhower, president of the Golden Valley Historical Society (GVHS), who gave a lesson in history about the fateful date when Darrow came to Beach on a mission to persuade the men of the county to vote for women's rights at the ballot box. At the time, there were 52 women in the Beach’s Vote for Women club. Women found success in 1914 when the county vote granted women access to the ballot box for all issues — Prior to this, they were only able to cast their opinion on educational issues.
“It is really interesting to know that women could only vote two inches on the ballot while the men had two feet,” said Joanne Tescher, treasurer of the GVHS. “This day and age we don't think about how the fight was won for women’s right to vote...In the early nineteen hundreds, traveling from just Fargo to here would have been a challenge and to think about (Darrow) reaching out to the 52 women here who were pushing for suffrage them self... that tenacity is amazing”
Ridenhower also read out loud the speech Darrow wrote and recited when she came to Beach called, ‘I Want To Vote.’ The powerful and touching words that shared Darrow’s personal conviction for equal suffrage.
Susan Wefald, co-chair of the North Dakota Woman Suffrage Centennial Committee, was planning on attending the event and to read the speech herself but was unable to after being placed in quarantine from close contact with a positive COVID-19 case.
“It was disappointing that Susan Wefeld couldn't join us, we did do a lot of preliminary work with her and she is so knowledgeable about everything that happened,” Ridenhower said. “It was a pleasure to work with her and we are looking forward to her coming and sharing in the future.”
Tescher followed this by reading the congratulation letter from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation who sponsored the trail marker. Only four other Votes for Women trail markers are located in ND; Valley City, Fargo, Grand Forks and Pembina.
“The foundation is located in Syracuse NY and since 2005, they have grown eight different marker programs.” Tescher said. “There are over 1,200 of these markers all across the country.”
Following the ceremony was a short reception where the Golden Valley Historical society offered their guests tea and cookies, just as they did a hundred year prior when Darrow came to advocate.
“It is an honor to be chosen as one of five places across the state that could get the trail maker,” Ridenhower said. “We are thankful for the turnout and I'm thankful for all the help our staff, directors, and officers of the historical society provided.”