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Exhibit and Online Experience Explore the Little-Known Story of Women and Free People of Color Legally Holding the Vote in New Jersey from 1776–1807

Coincides with Year-Long Celebration of 19th Amendment’s 100th Anniversary

Please note: The Museum reopens to the public on Sept. 3, with special member access beginning August 20. New health and safety protocols have been implemented to ensure the safest, most welcoming experience for all.

The Museum of the American Revolution’s groundbreaking new exhibition When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776 – 1807 will open to the public on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020 and run through Sunday, April 25, 2021. The exhibition also will be made accessible to virtual visitors from around the world through a robust, free online experience. 
 

Through the onsite and online experiences, When Women Lost the Vote will explore – as no exhibit, book, or other medium has before – the little-known story of women and free people of color legally voting in New Jersey following the Revolutionary War. It also will examine the political conflicts that led to their voting rights being stripped away in 1807.

The exhibition coincides with the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment this year and explores how Revolutionary-era women voters became role models for the next generation of women's suffragists.

“With the rapidly approaching presidential election, this exhibition presents a timely cautionary tale about one of America’s first voting rights crises and serves an important reminder that protecting our rights and freedoms—and those of others—requires constant vigilance,” said Dr. Marcela Micucci, Curatorial Fellow in Women’s History at the Museum. “It is also an inspiring story about the radical potential of the American Revolution and its role in shaping women’s political opportunities and activism.”

Tickets to the exhibition are on sale now and are included with regular Museum admission. Due to the Museum’s reduced capacity to adhere to social distancing guidelines, advance ticket reservations are strongly encouraged. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone (215.253.6731).

Featuring original objects including textiles, manuscripts, and works of art, the exhibition will bring to life the forgotten stories of the women who first pioneered the vote. Also featured in the exhibition will be several recently discovered poll lists featuring the names of 163 white female voters and three Black male voters, tracked down by the Museum’s curatorial team during an extensive examination of voter records. Prior to this discovery, little proof of women or people of color voting during this period was known to exist.

It also will explore how challenges of our democracy in its earliest stages anticipate those we face today, including accusations of voter fraud and voter suppression, the dangers of a highly partisan press, and the political consequences of racism and misogyny.

When Women Lost the Vote will be integrated within the Museum’s core galleries and connected by an audio tour, incorporating this brand-new scholarship into the Museum’s central narrative and delving even deeper into the complexities of the nation's founding and the implications of the Revolution.

In November, the Museum will install a new historical tableau scene featuring women at the polls in Montgomery Township, Somerset, New Jersey in 1801. The scene will include lifelike figures of two white women and one woman of color—encouraging visitors to consider the complexity of laws that allowed propertied women, both of European and African descent, to vote, but also defined enslaved women as property. The tableau will remain on permanent display.

When Women Lost the Vote also will be made available to virtual visitors from around the world through a robust online experience, which is scheduled to launch in late October and will remain permanently available. The online experience will feature explorations of the newly-discovered poll lists and other primary source documents; a look at history-making discoveries and how historians do their work; provocative questions, exercises, and prompts for discussion; as well as teacher resources, a glossary of terms, and opportunities to learn more. It also will include interviews with the exhibition’s curators, eminent historians, and other special guests.

Key Artifacts on Display

  • Newly discovered poll lists from early 1800s New Jersey featuring the names of women and people of color who voted.
  • ballot box (1811) from Deptford Township, N.J.
  • The original manuscript of the first voter law passed by an American state that specifically included women, New Jersey’s 1790 election statute.
  • tavern sign (1802) from Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, bearing the image of Thomas Jefferson, which is on loan from Bergen County Historical Society. The sign hung over John Hopper’s tavern in Bergen County, which served as a polling place in the early 1800s. 
  • Original objects owned by Revolutionary-era American women that document the emerging demand for a greater political voice, such as:
  • the wedding dress of Deborah Sampson who, before she married in 1785, disguised herself as a man to serve in Washington’s army;
  • letter from Abigail Adams urging her husband John to “Remember the Ladies” as Congress moved toward independence in 1776;
  • and samplers, embroidery, clothing, inscribed books, diaries, and portraiture from the Museum’s collection and from generous lenders.
  • A new case in the Museum’s second-floor atrium will contain artifacts from the 1770s – 1920s, examining the ways that suffragists evoked the memory of the Revolution and early American women voters in their fight for the vote.

Programs and Special Events

The exhibition will be supplemented with special events and programs for all ages, onsite and online, to bring to life the stories of America’s first women voters and explore other central themes. Programming highlights include:

  • Two original first-person theatrical performances will dramatize the different experiences and perspectives of two women of the period. Actors will dramatize the stories of Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, an enslaved woman in Massachusetts who sued for her own freedom and won, and Rebecca Van Dyke, who, along with her daughters, cast her vote in New Jersey. Due to new health and safety regulations, the performances will be shown via film at the Museum until further notice.
  • On August 26, Women’s Equality Day, tune into the Museum’s Facebook page at 10 a.m. for a conversation between Dr. R. Scott Stephenson, Museum President and CEO; Dr. Marcela Micucci, the Museum’s Curatorial Fellow in Women’s History; and Dr. Rosemarie Zagarri, author of Revolutionary Backlash and a member of the advisory council for this exhibit, as part of the Museum’s new AmRev360 web series.
  • Live virtual experiences inspired by the exhibition are available for both students and adults. Contact the group sales department at groups@amrevmuseum.org or 215.579.3623 for more information.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776 – 1807

WHERE: Museum of the American Revolution, 101 S. Third St. Philadelphia, PA 19106

WHEN: Friday, October 2, 2020 – Sunday, April 25, 2021, Thursday – Sunday, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

HOW: The exhibition is included with regular Museum admission. Tickets can be purchased at www.amrevmuseum.org or by calling 215.253.6731. Museum tickets are $21 for adults; $18 for seniors, students, and active or retired military; and $13 for children ages 6 and up. Children ages 5 and under are free. All tickets are valid for two consecutive days, based on availability. For group tickets, call 267.858.3308. Memberships are also available online or by calling 215.454.2030.

Bank of America and Comcast NBCUniversal are presenting sponsors of When Women Lost the Vote. Other support was provided by The Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution. The exhibition was also made possible in part by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor. 

About Museum of the American Revolution
The Museum of the American Revolution uncovers and shares compelling stories about the diverse people and complex events that sparked America’s ongoing experiment in liberty, equality, and self-government. Through the Museum’s unmatched collection, immersive galleries, powerful theater experiences, and interactive elements, visitors gain a deeper appreciation for how this nation came to be and feel inspired to consider their role in ensuring that the promise of the American Revolution endures. Located just steps away from Independence Hall, the Museum serves as a portal to the region’s many Revolutionary sites, sparking interest, providing context, and encouraging exploration. The Museum, which opened on April 19, 2017, is a private, non-profit, and non-partisan organization. For more information, visit www.AmRevMuseum.org or call 877.740.1776.