Friday, March 18, 2016

Women's History Month 2016: Tip #17 When Did She Vote?

Are you using voting records to research your female ancestor? We often assume that these records will be of little use since women did not receive the right to vote until 1920. But for many states, that assumption is incorrect.

National American Woman Suffrage Association, “Votes for women,” Digital Public Library of America, Courtesy of the University of Virginia Library
As the American Women page on the American Memory website points out:

When it was ratified in 1920, the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution granted     the right to vote to women. Before that time, some states had passed legislation allowing women to vote, beginning with Wyoming in 1869...

Western territories such as Colorado, Utah, and California followed Wyoming's example in the years from 1869 to 1911. Women gained limited suffrage rights from other states and municipalities, such as Kentucky, which gave widows with children the right to vote in school elections as early as 1838.

During the women's suffrage movement, New Jersey became a rallying point for the early suffragists in their demonstrations and court cases. Interestingly, New Jersey had given women who met the enumerated requirements the right to vote in its 1776 constitution. 

Yes, women in New Jersey who met the requirements could vote as early as 1776, but in 1844 that right was taken away.

After you determine when your state granted female suffrage, start looking at voting records. Find these by doing a search on the FamilySearch Catalog, or a state archive or library.

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