Descendants of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth honor women's suffrage activists

On the eve of the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, descendants of two women's suffrage icons spoke about the push to memorialize them and the continuation of their work.
/ Source: TODAY

The descendants of two iconic leaders of the women's suffrage movement are celebrating the 100th anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, but they feel their ancestors' work is not done.

Coline Jenkins, whose great-great grandmother is Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Marika McLiechey, a descendant of Sojourner Truth, spoke with Hoda Kotb on TODAY Tuesday, one day ahead of Women's Equality Day commemorating the moment the 19th Amendment became law.

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"First of all she is my great great grandmother by matrilineal descent, so with that there's a passage of values and ideas of how to act in life," Jenkins said about Stanton.

Jenkins has been part of a push to permanently memorialize Stanton and two other suffrage movement leaders, Truth and Susan B. Anthony. She is on the board of Monumental Women, a group that has fought for seven years to have statues of those women erected in New York City's Central Park.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton helped start the movement for women's suffrage by organizing the first women's rights conference in 1848. TODAY

"After 160 years in Central Park, the only (female) figures are Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose, and a witch, and they're all fiction," Jenkins said. "And we wanted real women."

Securing the right to vote required a 72-year battle by women before the 19th Amendment became law in 1920, prohibiting states from denying people from voting on the basis of sex.

Stanton helped start the movement in 1848 by organizing the first women's rights convention. She was inspired as a child by seeing distraught women in her father's law office who had realized they were not protected under the law.

Truth's inspiring journey began when she escaped slavery in 1826. She went on to fight for women's rights and for the abolition of slavery, believing God had called her to spread the gospel of freedom and justice.

McLiechey, who has practiced as a minister herself, believes that Truth would still be fighting against injustice and attempts to disenfranchise voters to this day.

"I think she would be like, 'After all of this work you guys have gotten complacent,''' McLiechey said. "Yes, we've accomplished some things, but it's not finished. My work isn't done. I may not be here physically anymore, but my work should continue."

Sojourner Truth escaped from slavery to become a prominent abolitionist and women's suffrage leader. TODAY

Jenkins hopes that lasting monuments to Stanton, Truth and Anthony can serve as a reminder of everything they fought for more than a century ago. Truth will also be the first Black woman honored with a statue in Central Park.

The statue of Stanton is ready, and it will be revealed exclusively on TODAY Wednesday during the 8 o'clock hour.

Jenkins and her daughter, Elizabeth, got a sneak peek at the statue under the tarp on Tuesday.

"Well, the flesh and blood has transformed to bronze," a proud Jenkins said. "And I like the fact that my great great grandmother and the other women in this statue are standing shoulder to shoulder with men.

"And that's an important message. I just love the fact that she didn't die in 1902. She lives!"