The League of Women Voters of Southern New Mexico has initiated the acquisition and installation of a National Votes for Women trail marker to be placed at Pioneer Women’s Park, 500 W. Las Cruces Ave.
An unveiling ceremony for the trail marker, called the Pomoroy Trail Marker, will be Monday, March 22 but will not be open to the public due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, the ceremony will be filmed and televised on KRWG-TV at a future date.
The trail marker will be part of the National Women’s Suffrage Trail. The League of Women Voters of Southern New Mexico sought and obtained permission from the Las Cruces City Council to install the marker at the City park.
The marker at Pioneer Women’s Park will support the legacy of the Las Cruces Woman’s Improvement Association.
Pioneer Women’s Park was developed by early members of the Las Cruces Women’s Improvement Association (WIA). The 2.1-acre park, in the Alameda Historical District Neighborhood, was deeded to the then-Town of Las Cruces in 1942.
In February 2019 members of the League of Women Voters of New Mexico (LWVNM) were approached by a representative of the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, a New York based foundation committed to supporting the preservation and recognition of community history. To celebrate the centennial of the 19th Amendment, the Foundation worked with the National Votes for Women Trail and state coordinators to encourage nominations from New Mexico for markers recognizing suffrage sites, leaders, and actions.
With some research by members of the League of Southern New Mexico, it became evident that in southern New Mexico the WIA had included influential suffragists. Since WIA was a General Federation of Women’s Clubs (GFWC) affiliate, the GFWC Progress Club joined the project to apply for a marker.
A marker provides evidence of the spirit and fortitude of determined early advocates for women’s rights in Las Cruces.
The application required the site to be on the National Votes for Women Trail. Primary sources of documentation showed that WIA Secretary Laura Frenger sent a telegram to President Woodrow Wilson in December of 1917 with the message “Pass women’s suffrage amendment.” Meeting minutes of January 1918 showed it cost 80 cents to send the telegram.
Throughout the existence of the WIA, many improvements for Las Cruces were made. The organization watered dusty streets, provided citizenship classes, well-baby and mental health clinics, and developed a junior women’s club. Members of the WIA purchased a hearse for community use and property for “Union Park,” now Pioneer Women’s Park, and the “pavilion,” and built the first community library.
Women’s rights and voting were also important parts of their agenda. Members were active in getting the right for women to vote in school elections into the 1912 New Mexico Constitution during the statehood process. The right was weak, however, because if enough men objected at the local level, the “right” could have been taken away.
The City of Las Cruces is playing an important role in celebrating the history of the Woman’s Improvement Association by placing the marker in Pioneer Women’s Park. For more information about the WIA go to: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman%27s_Improvement_Association_of_Las_Cruces. Brochures about the WIA are available at various places across the City.
Sponsored by the National Collaborative for Women’s History Sites, the National Votes for Women Trail seeks to recognize and celebrate the diversity of people and groups active in the struggle for women’s suffrage. The Trail consists of two parts: a database with digital map, and a program of historical markers for about 250 women’s suffrage sites across the U.S. The project is funded by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation and the federal Women’s Suffrage Centennial Commission.
Through crowd-sourcing, the database and digital map collects sites from throughout the U.S. to tell the story of suffrage for all women, of all ethnicities, classes, and geographic areas, from the colonial period to the present. The National Votes for Women Trail currently has more than 2,100 sites on its database.
The National Votes for Women Trail also promotes a program of historical markers to commemorate the people, places, and events important to passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, in 1920. The markers are based on extensive research in primary sources and represent the diversity of places, events, and people of the suffrage struggle.
Anchoring the story of women’s suffrage in specific historic sites brings to life the enormous grassroots commitment to ensure voting rights for women as U.S. citizens. Women’s suffrage was indeed a national struggle, part of the ongoing struggle for voting rights for all U.S. citizens, including African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, indigenous people, people from farms as well as cities, rich as well as middle class and working class, people of all religions, men and women.
By honoring the work of hundreds of thousands of participants in the movement for women’s suffrage, this project shows how social change happens through citizen action and inspires future generations to treasure their right to vote.