When Women Lost the Vote

Abolition: The prohibition of the institution of slavery, whether in individual states or within the United States as a whole.

Aliens: Term referring to immigrants.

Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798: Four Acts passed by President John Adams and the Federalists in Congress in response to the fear of war with France and in an attempt to weaken support for the Democratic Republicans. 

The acts were the Naturalization Act, increasing residency requirements for immigrants to 14 years from 5 years; the Alien Enemies Act, permitting the government to deport all male citizens of an enemy nation in the event of war; the Alien Friends Act, allowing the president to deport any non-citizen suspected of plotting against the government; and the Sedition Act, which took aim at people who spoke against the federal government. By 1802, three of the acts were repealed or expired. The Alien Enemies Act remains on the books. 

Antiquity: Ancient times; peoples, tribes, nations, or cultures of ancient times; having the quality of being ancient.

Boycott: Refusal to buy the products or use the services of particular public or private entities, usually as a means of protest. 

British Parliament: The supreme legislative body of the British Empire. From 1707 to 1800, it was known as the Parliament of Great Britain, after the political union of England and Scotland.

Carpenter v. Cornish: A 1912 case brought before the New Jersey Supreme Court arguing that women should have the right to vote. It was brought by Mary Philbrook, the first female attorney in New Jersey. The courts ruled that women had no right to vote under the New Jersey Constitution, arguing rather that it was a privilege.

Civic: Of or relating to citizenship; citizens; civil.

Classicism: The principles or styles characteristic of the literature and art of ancient Greece and Rome or adherence to those principles.

“Clear Estate in the Same”: This phrase refers to a clear amount of owned property or currency free of debt or limitation. In other words, if a person had clear ownership of property, they were not indebted on the ownership of that property to a bank or other financial institution or entity. 

Confiscation Laws: During the Revolutionary War, state governments, including New Jersey, passed a series of laws for confiscating the property of suspected Loyalists in an attempt to quell subversive activities and raise funds for financing the war effort.

Continental Congress: The first governing body by which the American colonial governments coordinated their resistance to Great Britain. Eventually, in 1776, it became the de facto national government of the new United States until it was replaced by the Confederation Congress in 1781.

Cybele the Phrygian Mother of the Gods: The Mother of Gods in the Phyrgian pantheon. Phrygia was an ancient kingdom that existed in western central Anatolia (part of modern Turkey) from about 1200 BC to 700 BC. The Greeks assimilated aspects of Cybele into their goddesses Gaia, Rhea, and Demeter.

Declaration of Independence: Adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, the Declaration announced the dissolution of the union between the 13 colonies and Great Britain. It was also declared that the 13 colonies were now free and independent states. It is one of the founding documents of the United States.

Deed of gift: A legal agreement under which a husband would “gift” his wife an amount of money, property, or goods, to be received (pending the agreement) either during a marriage or after a husband’s death. 

A direct gift of personal property could also be given to a daughter from her father, to protect her sole access to his assets willed to her upon his death. However, some 18th- century courts overruled these deeds of gifts in favor of the wife’s husband’s right to her property under marriage.

Democratic Republican (or Jeffersonian, Republican): Formed in 1792, this was the first opposition political party created in response to the Federalist Party. The Federalists held power at the national level under the presidencies of George Washington and John Adams. Led by Thomas Jefferson, the Democratic Republicans supported greater states’ rights, sought weaker national institutions, and believed Federalist policies benefited the wealthy at the expense of the common American. The party held power nationally from the election of Jefferson in1800 until the election of 1824 when it split into two separate factions.

The state of New Jersey voted Federalist in the 1800 presidential election and did not transition to a Democratic-Republican majority until 1801.

“Deputy Husband”: A term for women’s expanded roles in colonial households when their husbands were absent, ill, disabled, or incapacitated. This increase in duties could include conducting business, settling accounts, and providing for the family as necessary.

Dowry: An amount of money and/or real estate, movable property or goods a woman or her family brought into a marriage. 

“Dower Thirds”: A legal portion (usually one-third) of an estate a widowed woman was entitled to by law if or when her husband died. “Dower thirds” typically designated widows the legal owners of their husbands’ property, until (or if) it could be passed down to his male heir. 

“Dower thirds” were meant to protect women in widowhood. However, regardless of how much property a widow brought into the marriage through her dowry, she was only legally entitled to one-third of that property if or when her husband died. 

Egalitarian: Relating to or believing in the principle that all people are equal and deserve equal opportunities.

Elector: A person who has the right to participate in an election.

Electoral: Pertaining to the selection of a person or persons for office by vote, i.e., elections.

Electoral College: The method for indirectly electing the president of the United States established in the US Constitution. The Electoral College has 538 electors, one for each member of Congress that represents each state, plus three additional electors for Washington D.C. The method of choosing electors is decided on by each individual state.

The Electoral College was born out of compromise. At the time of the US Constitution’s framing, no country’s populace directly elected its chief executive. Debate between letting the people elect the president by straight popular vote and allowing Congress to choose the executive led to the creation of the Electoral College. Prior to 1804, each elector cast two votes for President, effectively doubling the votes cast. 

Electoral Reform Law: a law enacted by a legislative body to amend a constitution’s election laws, whether federal or state. 

A state’s constitution represents the highest legal authority within a given state. To amend the constitution, a legislative body must enact state statutes. In New Jersey, the state legislature enacted and passed those statutes. The legislature passed multiple electoral reform laws from 1776 to 1807, most importantly the Electoral Reform Statutes of 1790, 1797, and 1807.

Electioneering: The activities of groups or individuals to convince voters to cast ballots for or against particular candidates, parties, or issues. It can include activities such as displaying campaign flyers, posters or signs, distributing campaign materials, or soliciting votes.

English Common Law: Common law is the legal system based primarily on judicial rulings of cases. Also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law, it uses the precedent set by previous cases to guide legal decisions. It originated in the Middle Ages and evolved over the years into the basis of the judicial systems in the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and other nations of the Commonwealth.

Enlightenment: Also known as the Age of Reason, the Enlightenment was a movement that reoriented European politics, philosophy, science, and communications between the late 17th and early 19th centuries. It included many different figures, some of whom were quite different from each other in their thinking, but common threads throughout were questioning traditional authority and embracing the notion that humanity could be improved through rational change. The egalitarian ideas of the Enlightenment inspired the American, French, and Haitian Revolutions. Some of the most influential names of the Enlightenment are Isaac Newton, John Locke, Voltaire, Thomas Jefferson, and Mary Wollstonecraft.

Enfranchisement: The giving of a right or privilege, especially the right to vote.

Factions: A small organized dissenting group within a larger one, especially in politics.

Federalist: A member or supporter of the Federalist Party (1791-1824). The Federalists supported a strong central government and dominated national politics in the United States until 1800. The foundations of the national economy, a national justice system, and the principles of foreign policy come from Federalist policies. Influential Federalists included John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, John Marshall, and John Jay.

The state of New Jersey voted Federalist in the 1800 presidential election and did not transition to a Democratic-Republican majority until 1801. 

Femme Coverture (or Coverture): Translates to “a woman covered.” The doctrine of “coverture” refers to the legal “covering” of a husband over his wife under marriage; that women were not independent legal agents under the law. Femmes coverts had no legal, political, or economic authority or identity separate from their husbands.

The term originates from the French, though the legal custom was brought over by the British colonists who followed the traditions of English Common Law.

Femme Sole: Translates to “a woman alone.” Single or widowed women were not legally or economically bound by “coverture.” They could own property, make and sign contracts, serve as heads of households, and own and operate businesses.

The term originates from the French, though the legal custom of “coverture” and the status of femme sole were brought over by the British colonists who followed the traditions of English Common Law. 

“Female Politicians”: Women who had a strong interest in politics and knowledge of contemporary political affairs and ideas. This term did not necessarily imply a person that sought or held public office. 

For more on the definition of “female politicians,” refer to: Rosemarie Zagarri, Revolutionary Backlash: Women and Politics in the Early American Republic (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), 75-78. 

Fifteenth (15th) Amendment: Passed in 1870, this amendment to the US Constitution granted African American men the right to vote. The amendment states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

“Fifty Pounds Proclamation Money”: The requirement to own 50 pounds worth of property helped determine who could vote in New Jersey between 1776 and 1807 under the New Jersey State Constitution. 

“Proclamation Money” simply meant currency, though that currency could be measured in cash money, real estate, or other forms of movable property. 

Even as New Jersey and the rest of the United States began to use dollars instead of pounds for its currency in the 1790s, the 50-pound property requirement remained the law in the state. 

The amount of 50 pounds would change with inflation over the course of the American Revolution and postwar years. According to conversion tables published in the annual clerk’s pamphlet, between 1793 and 1806, 1 pound in New Jersey was equal to $2.67.2. That means 50 pounds was the equivalent of $133.33. 

Forfeiture (or Forfeited): The loss of any property without compensation as a result of defaulting on contractual obligations, or as a penalty for illegal conduct. When referring to a contract, forfeiture refers to the requirement by the defaulting party to give up ownership of an asset, or cash flows from an asset, as compensation for the resulting losses to the other party. When mandated by law, as a punishment for illegal activity or prohibited activities, forfeiture proceedings may be either criminal or civil.

Freeholder: A person who owned debt-free land. Typically freeholders were white male landowners.

The 1776 New Jersey State Constitution determined that while elected officials needed to be freeholders, voters, who were referred to as “all inhabitants,” did not. 

Franchise: The right to vote. 

Gradual Emancipation Act of 1804: The act passed by the State of New Jersey declaring that any children born of enslaved women would be born free. They would remain as servants to the owner of their mother until the age of 25 if the child was male and until the age of 21 if the child was female. Over the next six decades, the state would retain slaveholding in some form or another until the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865, which New Jersey initially rejected before ratifying in 1866.

Inalienable Rights: Personal rights held by an individual which are not bestowed by law, custom, or belief, and which cannot be taken or given away, or transferred to another person. The US Constitution recognized that certain universal rights cannot be taken away by legislation, as they are beyond the control of a government, being naturally given to every individual at birth, and that these rights are retained throughout life.

Indentured Servant: A person who signed a contract (also known as an indenture or a covenant) by which they agreed to work for a certain number of years in exchange for transportation to a location and, once arrived, food, clothing, and shelter. After the years of service were completed, and if they survived, their contract may have included the granting of at least 25 acres of land, a year’s worth or corn, arms, a cow, and new clothes.

Legislature: The government body of a country or state that has the power to make laws. The New Jersey State Legislature, for example, was made up of the Legislative Council and the State Assembly from 1776 to 1844.

Loyalist: A colonist of the Revolutionary era who supported the British.

Marital Settlement: A legal agreement that allowed married women to separate their interests, property, or money from their husbands. Marriage settlements included prenuptial agreements, trusteeships, and deeds of gifts. These settlements could be upheld in court and served to protect a married woman’s assets. 

Material Culture: The physical objects, resources, and spaces that people use to define their culture.

Matrilineal: Of or based on kinship with the mother or the female line. Many Native American societies were matrilineal. 

Movable Property (or Transferable Property, Personal Property): Property that you own and can take with you, which does not include houses, apartments, or land.

Naturalization Acts: Two acts passed by the United States Congress in 1790 and 1795. The Act of 1790 defined eligibility for citizenship for those born outside the United States to “free white persons.” Essentially, only white, male property owners could naturalize and acquire the status of citizens, whereas women, nonwhite persons, and indentured servants could not. The Act of 1795 replaced the previous act, but the only major change was the increase in the period of required residency in the United States from two years to five years.

Neoclassicism: A Western cultural movement in the decorative and visual arts, literature, theatre, music, and architecture that drew inspiration from the art and culture of the classical antiquity of Greece and Rome. Classicism happened during the height of these eras and during a brief revival during the European Renaissance, whereas neoclassicism happened later, but was inspired directly by and imitated the more traditional classic style. The movement of neoclassicism began in the 1760s and lasted until the 1840s and 1850s. 

Nineteenth (19th) Amendment: This amendment granted American women the right to vote, a right known as suffrage. It was ratified on August 18, 1920 and adopted August 26, 1920. It states, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Partisan (or Partisan Politics): A firm adherent to a party, faction, cause, or person. 

Petition: A formal written request, typically one signed by many people, appealing to authority with respect to a particular cause.

Petticoat: Any 18th-century free-standing skirt that was not attached to a bodice, whether it was worn as outerwear or underwear. 

Polling Officials (including Inspectors, Judge, Collector, Clerk): Polling officials in New Jersey during the Revolutionary period and Early Republic were elected by vote at town meetings within each township. These elected officials served annual positions and oversaw local, state, and federal elections that took place in a township that year. 

Local town officials were required to be white male freeholders that owned debt-free land and at least 50 pounds of property (money, land, or movable). They also had to be at least 21 years old and residing in the county of that township for at least one year. 

On election day, the township’s elected officials (the Judge and some combination of at least one Town Clerk or Collector and one Poll Inspector) monitored and oversaw the election. These officials determined who could vote; recorded a list (a poll list) of voters in order of appearance that came to cast their ballots; regulated the polling place; and secured the ballot box and counted ballots after the election ended. Then, a combination of these officials counted the cast ballots and the Clerk or Collector delivered those ballots and the election results to the New Jersey Governor’s Office.

Poll List: A list of voters, or of votes cast. Poll lists, or voting registers as they are sometimes called, recorded important election information, including where and when an election took place, what the election was for, who the poll inspectors and election officials were, and who voted, or the total number of voters. 

In the 18th and early 19th centuries poll lists were used to record the names of all voters participating in a given election. When voting closed, poll inspectors made sure the number of ballots in the ballot box matched the number of names on the poll list to ensure all votes were accounted for. Poll lists were used to regulate elections and prevent voter fraud. 

Prenuptial agreement: A legal agreement or contract that set constraints or limitations on a husband’s right to his wife’s money, property, or goods she brought into a marriage. Prenuptial agreements were legal settlements upheld in court that served to protect a married woman’s assets. 

Primogeniture: The state of being the firstborn child. The right, by law or custom, of the firstborn legitimate child to inherit their parents’ entire or main estate in preference to shared inheritance among all or some children, any illegitimate child, or any collateral relative.

Proclamation: A public or official announcement, especially one dealing with a matter of great importance.

Provincial Congress: This was the transitional government body formed in New Jersey in 1775. Its members represented the 13 counties of New Jersey and were elected from the colony-wide Committee of Correspondence that had been formed the year prior to establish communication with other colonies. The Provincial Congress strongly asserted its power, usurping the executive authority of Royal Governor William Franklin by making a wide range of administrative, militia, and judicial appointments. On July 2, 1776, the Provincial Congress ratified the New Jersey State Constitution, which created the bicameral New Jersey Legislature, made up of a Legislative Council and General Assembly. The new state legislature convened its first session on August 27, 1776.

Quasi-War: An undeclared naval war between the new French Republic and the United States that lasted from 1798 to 1800. Tensions between the United States and France had been growing since the United States had signed the Jay Treaty with Great Britain. The French saw that treaty as incompatible with the 1778 treaties of Alliance and Commerce signed by France and the US. At the same time, France was engaged in the War of the First Coalition, which included war against Great Britain. In response, France seized American merchant ships trading with Britain. 

As a diplomatic option, newly-elected President John Adams sent a delegation to France to ease tensions, but instead it led to the scandal of the XYZ Affair and military action. Engagements took place primarily in US coastal waters and the Caribbean. After the fall of the Directory in France, Napoleon rose to power as First Consul and struck a more conciliatory tone with the United States. After better relations were restored the war ended with the signing of the Convention of 1800, which allowed the United States to remain neutral on the sea. It also implicitly ensured the US would remain neutral toward France in the Napoleonic Wars to come.

Ratified: Sign or give formal consent to a treaty, contract, or agreement, making it officially valid. Amendments to the Constitution require passage through Congress and ratification by three-fourths of the states.

Referendum (or State Referendum): A general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision. The vote on women’s suffrage was considered a state-by-state referendum. 

Representative Government: A government historically denoted as a system in which people elect their lawmakers (representatives), who are then held accountable to them for their activity within government. In the United States, federal and state governments have been representative since the founding in 1789 or their admission into the union. All state governments are required and constitutionally guaranteed to be representative forms under Article 3, section 4.

Secret Ballot: A ballot in which votes are cast in secret. In New Jersey, these typically took the form of written ballots. 

Society of Friends: A Christian group commonly known as the Quakers. They are also called the Friends Church or Religious Society of Friends. They believe in an individual’s direct awareness of God without creeds, clergy, or other ecclesiastical forms. This emphasis on a direct relationship with God and non-ideological religious style was met with persecution in England. Many Quakers came to North America which led to the founding of Pennsylvania. They were also influential in a number of other colonies, like New Jersey. A major tenant of the Quakers is the practice of nonviolence.

State Constitution: A body of fundamental principles or established precedents according to which a state is acknowledged to be governed. The State of New Jersey was governed by its first constitution from 1776 to 1844.

Statute: A written law passed by a legislative body.

Suffrage: The right to vote in political elections.

Suffragist: A person advocating that the right to vote be extended to more people, especially women. 

Temperance: Moderating or abstaining from the consumption of alcohol.

Testamentary: Relating to or bequeathed or appointed through a will. A testamentary will is a traditional will, i.e., last will and testament. It is a legal document that is used to transfer an estate to beneficiaries after the death of the person who makes the will.

Township Polling (or Township Voting): A reform in election laws and practices. In New Jersey, the State Legislature passed township voting for 7 of 13 counties in 1790, and applied it to all 13 counties statewide in 1797. 

Township voting in New Jersey did two things: first, it determined all elections to be held by secret ballot and not viva voice, or orally-cast ballots. Second, it appointed each township within each county up to two polling stations to hold elections. The goal of township voting was to increase voter turnout and access to polling places and ensure uniform and fair voting procedures across the state. 

Trusteeship: A legal agreement married women used to protect their independent property in marriage. Under a trusteeship, a married woman would vest her property to a male adult that was not her husband who could then secure that property from sale or seizure. 

Two-Party System: A political system in which the electorate gives its votes largely to only two major parties and in which one or the other party can win a majority in the legislature. The United States is an example of a nation with a two-party system. In the 18th century, the main political parties were the Federalists and the Democratic Republicans.

Viva Voce (or Oral Voting): The calling out in public of the name(s) of the candidate(s) a voter wanted for an office, as opposed to voting with a secret ballot. Oral voting was more prevalent during the 18th century but waned until it finally disappeared at the end of the 19th century. The tradition of oral voting in the United States can be traced back to Britain and parts of Europe, where oral voting had long been electoral law.

Voter Fraud: The illegal interference with the process of an election, either by increasing the vote share of a favored candidate, depressing the vote share of rival candidates, or both. Also referred to as electoral fraud, election fraud, election manipulation, or vote rigging. Accusations of voter fraud increased in New Jersey as more women, recent immigrants, and people of color exercised their right to vote during the period between 1776 and 1807.

Voter Suppression: Any legal or extralegal measure or strategy whose purpose or practical effect is to reduce voting, or registering to vote, by members of a targeted group. 

Women’s Suffrage (or The Woman Suffrage Movement): A decades-long fight to win the right to vote for women in the United States. A more national movement for women’s rights began to emerge from the abolitionist and reform movements in the 1830s. Women gained experience as leaders, organizers, and writers during this period. In 1848, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton held one of the first women’s rights conventions in Seneca Falls, New York. Over the next 70 years, the Women’s Suffrage Movement would push for the expansion of rights for women in the United States through publications, organizations, and political activism.

There were countless organizations connected to women’s suffrage. Many were born out of the movement, and many others lent their support, including labor unions, social societies, political parties, and more. The organizations inside the movement had different strategies for achieving the right to vote throughout the years. Some pursued a national amendment to the United States Constitution, while others fought for a state-by-state approach. Women’s suffrage organizations would also be intertwined with the Abolitionist and African American Suffrage movements, at certain times allied and at other times opposed to the legislation fought for by Black Americans. 

While individual states passed women’s suffrage referendums in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it would not be until 1920 that the 19th Amendment, a national amendment, was passed granting women the right to vote. 

However, suffrage was not universal. Not all Native American and Asian women were allowed citizenship, and many were still unable to vote under the 19th Amendment. African American women (and men) in many states remained disenfranchised, targeted by discriminatory state election laws such as poll taxes and literacy tests.

Suffragists, including Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, referred to the movement as the “Woman Suffrage Movement,” though it is also referred to as women’s suffrage or the Women’s Suffrage Movement. All terms are used interchangeably in the When Women Lost the Vote exhibition. 

XYZ Affair: A diplomatic scandal in 1797 between France and the United States which led to the Quasi-War. Relations between the United States and France had been strained since the signing of the Jay Treaty in 1794 between the US and Great Britain, which led to the French seizing American merchant ships trading with Britain. President John Adams was concerned France would invade the United States, so he sent a delegation to France for a diplomatic solution. The delegation was met by unofficial representatives of the French Foreign Minister who demanded bribes and a loan before official negotiations could begin. The American envoys were shocked and skeptical that any concessions would bring about substantial changes in French policy. When communication reached the United States about the incident, President Adams made preparations for war. The Democratic Republicans in Congress were suspicious of Adams’s motives and demanded he publicly release the correspondence of the negotiations with France. When Adams did release it, he replaced the names of the French intermediaries with W, X, Y, and Z.