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: Studying the Poll Lists
Season of Independence: Instructions by the Virginia Convention to Their Delegates in Congress, May 15, 1776
This newspaper from Boston, Massachusetts includes a printing of the instructions from Virginia’s assembly to their delegates at the Second Continental Congress. Most notably, the instructions tell Virginia delegates to not simply vote in favor of independence, but to propose it themselves. The instructions reference King George III’s “Proclamation of Rebellion” as one of several justifications for taking this step.
Courtesy of Massachusetts Historical Society
Finding Freedom: Eve - Randolph Household Inventory
Following Peyton Randolph’s death in 1775, York County, Virginia, officials recorded this inventory of his possessions. The names and values (in pounds) of the enslaved people he owned are recorded on pages four through ten of the inventory. Eve’s name is listed on page five of the inventory, while her son George’s name is listed on page four. Eve and another woman named Betty were assigned values of 100 pounds each, the highest values among the enslaved women recorded in the inventory. These high values suggest that Eve and Betty worked in the Randolph home. Eve’s status may have changed following her attempt to escape from the Randolph family with her son in search of freedom. At least two handwritten copies of this inventory survive. The other copy includes the notation “gone to the enemy” next to the names of Eve and George, referring to when they first ran away from the Randolph family in search of their freedom in late-1775 or early-1776.
This historical record is dedicated to the Museum of the American Revolution by the York County-Poquoson Circuit Court, Authorized by the Honorable Kristen N. Nelson, Clerk
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
Finding Freedom: Eve - Bruton & Middleton Parish Register, page 83
This page from the record book for Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, lists the baptism of Eve’s infant son George on July 6, 1766. The names of George and Eve can be found near the middle of the page. When Eve and George first ran away from the Randolph family in search of their freedom in late-1775 or early-1776, George was about 10 years old.
Courtesy of Bruton Parish Church
Picturing Washington's Army: Verplanck’s Point | Rhode Island Regiment
Take a closer look at the anchor-decorated colonnade of the Rhode Island Regiment. The Rhode Islanders’ tents were set up between the Massachusetts and Connecticut brigades. An officer’s marquee tent is visible in the foreground of this section of the painting.
Image: Museum of the American Revolution, Gift of the Landenberger Family Foundation
Among His Troops: Pierre Charles L’Enfant
Among His Troops: Continental Army Along the Hudson
George Washington called the Hudson River the “Key of America.” With the Mohawk River to the West and Lake George and Lake Champlain to the North, the Hudson was part of a system of waterways that reached from the Great Lakes, to Canada, and down to New York City. During the Revolutionary War, Americans clustered their Hudson River fortifications around three narrows– West Point in the North, the Popolopen Creek in the middle, and King’s Ferry to the South. These posts were between 45 and 60 miles from New York City. In 1781, French troops and a portion of the Continental Army crossed the Hudson River at King’s Ferry on their way to Yorktown, Virginia, a crossing that is now recognized as part of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail. By the summer of 1782, the American Army had secured its control of this region. Along the 15-mile stretch of the Hudson River, Washington maintained a force of over 11,000 soldiers. At the same time, 13,000 British troops occupied New York City. West Point was the Continental Army’s strongest fortification. Verplanck’s Point and Stony Point, on either side of King’s Ferry, were the front line against the British to the south.
Meet the Figures: Oneida Nation Theater: Wale
Mary Hanonwayele, also known as Wale (possibly the Oneida pronunciation of “Mary”), was a member of the Oneida Bear Clan. Her brother, Thomas Sinavis, was one of the Oneida warriors at Valley Forge and was killed at the Battle of Barren Hill on May 20, 1778. Unfortunately, Revolutionary commissioners overlooked her in distributing condolence gifts. In 1794, she finally received a small sum for this purpose as part of larger treaty negotiations between the United States and native groups. She lived until at least 1800.