More Than a Century Before the 19th Amendment, Women were Voting in New JerseyBreaking News
tags: New Jersey, suffrage, local history, womens history
For decades, there has been only anecdotal evidence that any women actually used this right — newspaper accounts complaining about women voting, and a copy of a poll list with two names that could have been women’s names, or men’s names incorrectly transcribed.
“This is the kind of detective work that historians love, because it’s an untold story,” said Philip Mead, chief historian at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.
Starting in 2018, museum staff led by curatorial fellow Marcela Micucci dug into the New Jersey State Archives, local historical societies and other cultural institutions looking for harder evidence.
After months of searching, they hit pay dirt.
“We found a poll list … from an election in Montgomery Township, Somerset County, in October of 1801. There were 343 voters on that list and 46 of them were women,” Micucci told The Washington Post. “I barged into [Mead’s] office, the list printed out in my hands, jumping up and down. It was very exciting.”
Since then, museum researchers have found 18 more poll lists, ranging from 1797 to 1807, nine of which contain women’s names. In total, they have identified 163 women who voted.
“This was not just some women, but quite a substantial number of women,” Micucci said.
The women’s names often appear together, indicating that they arrived at the polls in groups, perhaps for their own protection, Mead said.
“That in itself, I think, is an expression of bravery,” he said.