Contact: Fredie Kay
WORCESTER, Mass. (October 20, 2022) — Suffrage100MA and the City of Worcester will proudly unveil an historic women’s suffrage marker honoring the legacy of Sarah E. Wall, on Monday, October 24 at 4:00pm at the corner of Sycamore Street and Main Street (GPS address: 681 Main Street, Worcester, MA). The marker will celebrate Wall’s tax protest in 1858 for women’s voting rights and will encourage passers-by to learn more. The marker will be one of five Massachusetts suffrage markers on the National Votes for Women Trail. The project is funded through a grant by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation®, sponsored by the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites (NCWHS)’s National Votes for Women Trail (NVWT), and coordinated in Massachusetts by Suffrage100MA.
SARAH E. WALL
Sarah Elizabeth Wall (1825-1907) was an abolitionist and women’s rights activist from Worcester, famous for her refusal to pay property taxes as an act of protest. She was a member of the Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Association, participated in the First National Woman’s Rights Convention in Worcester (October 23-24, 1850), and was active in the movement for three decades.
In 1857, Wall declared “taxation without representation” to be unjust in a petition to the Massachusetts Legislature, which urged legislators “to adopt such measures as will eventually secure to women the right of suffrage.” The following year, Wall again petitioned the legislature and declined to pay taxes on land she owned in Worcester. In 1863, Worcester’s collector of taxes seized and auctioned off Wall’s property to recover unpaid taxes. Wall’s property was located approximately at 2 Sycamore Street, which was also the location of the auction, and is where this suffrage marker will now celebrate her protest. Later, in 1863, the Supreme Judicial Court of MA ruled that Wall must pay her taxes, which she refused to do.
In 1874, Wall was joined by Marietta Flagg and Abby Kelley Foster, organizing a convention in Cambridge that drew famous tax-protesters and suffragists Lucy Stone and Julia Smith. Three years later, Wall took the City to court and regained her property rights due to a procedural mistake. She accompanied Susan B. Anthony in Washington, D.C. during Anthony’s address to the U.S. Senate’s Select Committee on Woman Suffrage in 1884, where Anthony lauded Wall’s protest. Wall died in 1907 and is buried in Worcester Rural Cemetery. While no photos of Wall exist, her name appears in many newspaper articles and court documents of the time.
“Our city is proud to honor pioneering suffragist Sarah Wall with this trail marker, a landmark which will also help educate her hometown, the state and beyond about her brave tax-protest against unjust voting laws,” says Worcester City Councilor Morris Bergman.
“At a time when the very wellbeing of our democracy is at stake and women’s fundamental rights are threatened and restricted, we honor the legacy of Sarah Wall and her decades-long commitment to women’s rights and suffrage here in Massachusetts,” said Senator Markey. “Let her legacy be a reminder that the fight to defend and uphold women’s rights in our Commonwealth and across our country continues.”
“It is so fitting that we unveil the women’s suffrage trail marker for activist Sarah Wall on October 24, as it marks the anniversary of the First National Women’s Rights Convention held here in Worcester from October 23-24, 1850,” said Senate President Emerita Harriette L. Chandler. “This marker honors Wall’s brave tax protest to highlight that women were taxed without representation in this new country that had declared independence from Britain for exactly that reason, AND it also recognizes the city of Worcester’s important role in the national suffrage movement.”
“It is fantastic that Sarah Wall of Worcester, a remarkable but lesser-known suffragist, will now gain greater attention as a part of the National Votes for Women Trail,” said State Representative Mary S. Keefe.
“Refusing to be defined by her gender, Wall brought national acclaim to the cause of women’s suffrage here in Worcester, an act that, to this day, remains an inspiring reminder of the need to protect the right to vote,” said Mayor Joseph M. Petty.
Sponsored by the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites, the National Votes for Women Trail seeks to recognize and celebrate the enormous diversity of people and groups active in the struggle for women’s suffrage. The Trail consists of two parts: 1) a database with 2,364 sites on a digital map and 2) a program of historical markers for over 200 women’s suffrage sites across the country, including this marker as one of five in Massachusetts, funded by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation®’s National Women’s Suffrage Marker Grant Program.
The five Massachusetts markers are for: Maria Baldwin (Cambridge); Anne L. Page (Danvers); Remond Family (Salem); Sojourner Truth (Northampton); and Sarah E. Wall (Worcester).
“We are delighted to celebrate Sarah Wall with one of five suffrage markers coming to Massachusetts to highlight the history of women’s suffrage in Massachusetts. Each marker honors the lives of those who bravely worked to advance women’s voting rights, with more than half of these markers dedicated to women and men of color,” said Suffrage100MA Founder & President Fredie Kay, the Massachusetts State Coordinator of the National Votes for Women Trail. “These markers are the result of more than two years of dedicated collaboration between municipal leadership, passionate community historians, Suffrage100MA, the Pomeroy Foundation, the NCWHS and NVWT.”
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About the City of Worcester & Suffrage
Located in the center of Massachusetts, Worcester is known as the “Heart of the Commonwealth” and was a trailblazing city in the start of the women’s suffrage movement. Worcester hosted the first National Woman’s Rights Convention at Brinley Hall on Oct. 23 and 24, 1850. The convention was organized by prominent women’s rights activists, including Lucy Stone and Abby Kelley Foster. Nearly 1,000 men and women were in attendance from eleven states and speakers included many of the country’s most notable women’s rights and anti-slavery advocates, such as Frederick Douglass, Lucretia Mott, Sojourner Truth and Ernestine Rose. Worcester hosted the second national convention the following year, and continued to be a hub of abolition and women’s rights. The City of Worcester is a Suffrage100MA Partner. WorcesterMA.gov
Suffrage100MA is dedicated to commemorating the adoption of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified in 1920, prohibiting the federal and state governments from denying citizens the right to vote on the basis of sex. Suffrage100MA presents events and activities that highlight the history of the women’s suffrage movement and women’s rights, notably the tireless work and essential contributions of women of color, who were often excluded by white women’s suffrage organizations, and whose role in the suffrage movement has been largely overlooked. Suffrage100MA is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit, non-partisan organization, with over 200 non-profit Partners, committed to recognizing the importance of the 19th Amendment, voting rights and access to voting today. Suffrage100MA is transitioning into the Massachusetts Women’s History Center and Massachusetts Women’s Hall of Fame. Learn more at Suffrage100MA.org.
The National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites is a non-profit organization established to support and promote the preservation and interpretation of sites and locales throughout the country that bear witness to women’s participation in American history. A project of NCWHS, the National Votes for Women Trail consists of a database with digital map, and a program of historic markers for over 200 suffragists/women’s suffrage sites. Visit: nvwt.org.
About the Pomeroy Foundation
The William G. Pomeroy Foundation® is committed to supporting the celebration and preservation of community history; and to raising awareness, supporting research and improving the quality of care for patients and their families who are facing a blood cancer diagnosis. Established by Trustee Bill Pomeroy in 2005 to bring together his two greatest passions, the Pomeroy Foundation is a private, grant-making organization located in Syracuse, N.Y. As the nation’s leading funder of historic roadside markers, the Pomeroy Foundation has awarded nearly 1,700 grants for markers and bronze plaques in 45 states. To learn more about the Pomeroy Foundation, visit wgpfoundation.org.