The Statue of Liberty dedication ceremony was held on the afternoon of October 28, 1886. President Grover Cleveland, the former New York governor, presided over the event. No members of the general public were permitted on Bedloe Island (now Liberty Island) during the ceremonies, which were reserved entirely for dignitaries. Only two (2) females were granted access. They were Bartholdi's wife (wife to the man best known for designing the Statue of Liberty) and de Lesseps's granddaughter (Ferdinand de Lesseps was the Minister of France who formally presented the statue to the United States). Key officials had stated that in a public event they feared women might be injured in the crush of people. The restriction offended area suffragists, who chartered a boat and got as close as they could to the island. The group's leaders made speeches applauding the embodiment of Liberty as a woman and advocating women's right to vote.

Shortly after the dedication, The Cleveland Gazette, an African American newspaper, suggested that the statue's torch not be lit until the United States became a free nation "in reality".

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