Black Founders & the War at Sea with Author Eric Jay Dolin
Black Founders Women & the Archives with Lela Sewell-Williams & Rebecca Shipman
When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: Thomas Blue
When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: Caesar Trent
When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: Discovering America’s First Women Voters, 1800 - 1807
In 2018 the Museum of the American Revolution discovered polling records that document for the first time a generation of women voters in early New Jersey. To date, we have discovered 163 women voters on nine poll lists who cast ballots across the state from 1800 to 1807. These lists introduce new stories of the first women voters in the United States – stories of the forgotten women who pioneered the vote.
The poll lists suggest women’s political significance and participation in local, state, and federal elections in early New Jersey. This first in-depth analysis of these nine poll lists from New Jersey refutes any presumption that women in the Early Republic were only passive witnesses and bystanders of the political processes that shaped the new nation.
Not only has the Museum discovered evidence of women voters in early New Jersey, we have also identified the names of at least four free Black male voters on one of the poll lists. While we have yet to confirm the identity of any free Black women voters, the presence of both women and free Black voters on these poll lists reveals the inclusive nature of the electoral system in New Jersey in the first few decades following American independence.
When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: PLG - Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, October 1801
Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, October 1801
This poll list is for an 1801 state election held at the Rocky Hill Inn in Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey. The election determined annual officeholders for the New Jersey State Assembly and Legislative Council, and for the Somerset County Sheriff and Coroner. The poll list includes the names of 343 total voters. At least 46 of the voters are women (about 14 percent of the voters on the list). It also includes the names of at least four free Black male voters. One voter is identified as Black on the poll list with the word “negro” next to his name.
There are a number of voters on this list who have yet to be identified. As the Museum of the American Revolution continues its research, please contact us if you know more about any of the voters. Share your research with us.
Finding Freedom: Andrew - United States Census, 1850
Andrew Ferguson moved to Indiana (which became a state in 1816) after the Revolutionary War. The 1850 United States Census, shown here, documents Ferguson’s residence in Monroe County. Ferguson and his wife Jane (also known as Jenny; married in 1844) are listed near the bottom of the page. “B” in the column to the right of their age and gender stands for Black, their race. Andrew Ferguson is listed as being 95 years old (or born in about 1755), but he had previously claimed that he was born in about 1765.
National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC/Ancestry.com
Finding Freedom: Andrew - “Soldiers in Uniform”
This French officer’s depiction of American soldiers at the Siege of Yorktown shows a soldier of African descent from the Rhode Island Regiment of the Continental Army. During the Revolutionary War, Black and White soldiers fought alongside one another on both sides of the conflict. Historians estimate that between 4,000 and 8,000 men of African descent served in the Continental Army. In 1778, Rhode Island offered freedom to enslaved men in exchange for service. It created a regiment with privates of African and Native American ancestry, officered by White men. In 1781, the Rhode Island line was collapsed from two regiments into one integrated unit with segregated companies.
Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library
When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, October 1801
Somerset County, New Jersey
October 13, 1801
Ink on Paper
This poll list is from an 1801 state election held at the Rocky Hill Inn in Montgomery Township, Somerset County. The election determined annual officeholders for the New Jersey State Assembly and Legislative Council, and for the Somerset County Sheriff and Coroner. The town officers presiding over the election included one judge, Robert Stockton, the town clerk, Frederick Cruser, and two poll inspectors, Hendrick VanDike, also known as Colonel Henry VanDike, and Thomas Skillman.
The poll list includes the names of 343 total voters. At least 46 of these voters are women, accounting for nearly 14 percent of the voters on the list. It also includes the names of at least four free Black male voters, one of whom is identified as Black on the poll list with the word “negro” in parentheses next to his name.
Like the rest of Somerset County, Montgomery Township voted Federalist in 1801. Most voters in the township supported Federalists Peter D. Vroom for Legislative Council; William MacEowen, James Van Duyn, and Frederick Frelinghuysen for General Assembly; and Peter Stryker for sheriff. The voting results for coroner are lost.
Note: The names recorded on this poll list were written by an election official, not by the voters themselves. The spelling of each voter’s name on the poll list may be different compared to how that same person’s name is spelled in other historical records and by the Museum of the American Revolution.
Images: New Jersey State Archives, Department of State
Finding Freedom: Andrew - Claim for Increase in Revolutionary War Pension Payment
Andrew Ferguson traveled west to Knox County, Indiana, in 1844 to apply for an increase in his Revolutionary War pension payments due to the growing pain of his wartime injuries. This written record documents his testimony given at the county courthouse and the support Ferguson’s application received from a fellow Black veteran named Daniel Strother. According to his testimony, Ferguson was wounded in the leg at the Battle of Camden in 1780 and in the head at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in 1781. Two doctors examined Ferguson following his testimony and agreed that his injuries prevented him from earning a living from manual labor. The doctors supported his claim for an increase in his pension payments, but the United States Government denied Ferguson’s request.
National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC/Fold3.com