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Drew Sentivan/Two Left Hands

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.

1.

How Did Women Gain the Vote?

The Promise of 1776 for Women
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2.

How Did the Vote Expand?

New Jersey’s Revolutionary Decade
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3.

How Did Women Lose the Vote?

The Backlash
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4.

How Was the Vote Regained?

Redemption
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Virtual Exhibit

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.

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Related Resources

In The News

Museum of the American Revolution 
The New York Times

On the Trail of America’s First Women to Vote

by 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.

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Howard Pyle engraving
Collection of Ann Lewis and Mike Sponder 
The Washington Post

More than a century before the 19th Amendment, women were voting in New Jersey

by 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.

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Wwltvexhibit Box And Sign V2 Moment
 
The Philadelphia Inquirer

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.

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WWLTV Sponsorship Lockup

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