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.
Finding Freedom: London - Robert Pleasants’s Letter to Benedict Arnold
On January 30, 1781, London’s former owner, Robert Pleasants, wrote this letter to British Brigadier General Benedict Arnold, the American turncoat. Pleasants described how he valued London and wanted him to be returned. Soldiers from Arnold’s army had encamped near Pleasants’s plantation, called “Curles Neck,” earlier that month and may have persuaded London and his uncle, Carter Jack, to join them. London never returned to the Pleasants’s plantation.
Robert Pleasants Letterbook, Special Collections Research Center, Swem Library, College of William and Mary
Cost of Revolution: Part 3 Wounded Veteran
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: Deborah - George Washington’s Letter to Lund Washington
On April 30, 1781, General George Washington wrote this letter to Lund Washington, his cousin and farm manager, to express his disgust with Lund Washington’s decision to supply the British when they came to Mount Vernon earlier that month. In General Washington’s absence, Lund Washington convinced the British to spare the plantation from being destroyed by providing them with food and supplies. General Washington wrote in response, “It would have been a less painful circumstance to me, to have heard…they had burnt my House, & laid the Plantation in Ruins.” Lund Washington’s negotiation saved the property, but General Washington felt his honor had been tarnished by giving in to the enemy. The departure of 17 enslaved people, including Deborah, only worsened Washington’s embarrassment. Although the British left Washington’s plantation untouched, they burned many neighboring properties.
George Washington Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Picturing Washington's Army: Verplanck’s Point
Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s watercolor of the encampment at Verplanck’s Point (August-October 1782) depicts the Continental Army at its professional best. Wooden bowers, or shades made of tree branches, decorated the long line of soldiers’ tents. Washington’s marquee tent stood on a hill where it “towered, predominant” over the camp, as one eyewitness put it.
For a month, the Continental troops at Verplanck’s Point gathered firewood for the coming winter and drilled for the next campaign. On September 22, the Continental Army demonstrated their fighting readiness for French forces marching from Virginia through the Hudson Highlands. One astonished French officer admired the transformation of an army that had “formerly had no other uniform than a cap, on which was written Liberty.”
Image: Museum of the American Revolution, Gift of the Landenberger Family Foundation
When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story: PLG - Chester Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, October 1807
Chester Township, Burlington County, New Jersey, October 1807
This is a transcription of a poll list from a state election held at a schoolhouse in Moorestown, Chester Township, in October 1807. This list of voters includes the names of 38 women that cast their ballots just one month before the New Jersey State Legislature passed a bill defining voters as white, male citizens. The closing of the electorate effectively stripped the vote from women and free people of color in New Jersey.
A number of voters on this list 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