When Women Lost the Vote
A Revolutionary Story, 1776 – 1807
Women voted in Revolutionary America, over a hundred years before the United States Constitution guaranteed that right to women nationally.
The 1776 New Jersey State Constitution referred to voters as "they," and statutes passed in 1790 and 1797 defined voters as “he or she." This opened the electorate to free property owners, Black and white, male and female, in New Jersey. This lasted until 1807, when a new state law said only white men could vote.
What can this story of changing laws about who could vote from the earliest days of American democracy teach us about what it means to vote and what it takes to preserve and expand that right?
A newly discovered set of sources - lists of men and women, Black and white - who voted in New Jersey between 1798 and 1807 set off our quest to find the answers.
Poll List Interactive: Discovering America’s First Women Voters
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. We have also identified the names of at least four free Black male voters on one of the poll lists. These lists introduce new stories of the first women voters in the United States and reveal the inclusive nature of the electoral system in New Jersey in the first few decades following American independence.
In The News
On the Trail of America’s First Women to Voteby Jennifer Schuessler
The Museum's discovery of several poll lists featuring the names of women voters from the period, including a list from the New Jersey State Archives that features the names of 46 women voters, was featured in The New York Times.
More than a century before the 19th Amendment, women were voting in New Jerseyby Gillian Brockell
The Museum's discovery of several poll lists featuring the names of women voters from the period was featured in The Washington Post's series "The Long Struggle for Suffrage" in the lead-up to the centennial of the 19th Amendment.
In 1807, N.J. women and free people of color lost the right to vote. The Museum explores why.by Brandon T. Harden
The Philadelphia Inquirer previewed the Museum's exhibit exploring the untold stories of women and free people of color who voted in New Jersey during the decades following the Revolutionary War — a right that was stripped away by the state in 1807.
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: Democracy demands wisdom.