New Jersey’s first constitution contained a unique feature – women could vote. Few women voted until an exciting election in Essex County in 1807 in which Elizabeth and Newark battled over where an expensive court-house should be located. Charges against some women for fraudulent voting resulted in the disfranchisement of all women by a statue justified as “highly necessary to safety, quiet, good order and dignity of the State.” The American woman suffrage movement was born during the fight to abolish slavery. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott were denied seats at the 1840 British Anti-Slavery Convention on the basis of gender. They returned to America, vowing to fight for women’s rights. In 1848, they held their first convention at Seneca Falls, New York. The high point was presentation of the Declaration of Sentiments, which included higher education, property rights and suffrage for women. So radical was the concept of woman suffrage that some delegates refused to sign the Declaration.
The Declaration was signed by 100 brave souls and “extensively published, unsparingly ridiculed by the press and denounced by the pulpit.” Susan B. Anthony joined the fight in a partnership that would last for over 50 years. After the Civil War, Anthony and Stanton fought a losing battle to have woman suffrage included in the 14th and 15th Amendments, which extended that franchise only to male citizens – Negro and white. Women were expressly excluded.
The National Women’s Suffrage Association set organizers to major party conventions, arguing that former Negro male slaves could vote, so why couldn’t white women? Some ladies were splattered with rotten eggs when they tried to vote. Anthony was fined $100 for voting in 1872. “I will never pay a dollar,” she said and never did. Some New York newspaper attacks were vicious against Anthony and the suffragists. The men of the West were more chivalrous. The territory of Wyoming was the first to grant woman suffrage, followed by Utah. Wyoming later refused to enter the Union without woman suffrage. In 1870, a group led by Lucy Stone, joined the fray. In 1884, Belva Lockwood, a prominent lawyer, ran for President. The men of Rahway, New Jersey, ridiculed her by parading in Mother Hubbard dresses. In1913, Quaker Alice Paul formed the National Women’s Party and led a lobbying effort for a constitutional amendment for women’s suffrage. Clergy throughout the country decreed that it would ruin family values. The key turning point was the prominent role women played in aiding the war effort during World War l. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th and deciding state to ratify for approval of the 19th Amendment, however, the anti-suffrage forces used parliamentary maneuvers to delay, trying to convert some of the pro-suffrage votes to their side. But eventually their tactics failed, and the governor sent the required notification of the ratification to Washington, D. C. And, so, on August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution became law, and women could vote in the fall elections, including in the Presidential election. This wiped out the ancient discrimination of sex from American politics,
Sources: The Daily News, “Women’s Suffrage and temperance movements shared an uneasy alliance,” :History, “Women’s Suffrage,” : National Archives, America’s Historical Documents, “19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution: Women’s Right to Vote,” :Thought Co., “Women’s Suffrage Victory: August 26, 1920.”