Three Women at the Polls in Montgomery Township, October 1801
Here, three women gather at the Rocky Hill Inn in Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, for a state election held on October 13-14, 1801. Two white women hold ballots to vote, as was the right of property-owning women in New Jersey. A woman of African descent, possibly as a voter, or possibly as the enslaved property of one of the other women, clenches her hand in her pocket.
Scenes like this one were not uncommon at polling places in New Jersey from the 1790s until 1807. Though little known today, New Jersey Laws of 1790 and 1797 held that: “All free inhabitants of this State of full age, and who are worth fifty pounds proclamation money…shall be entitled to vote for all public officers.” This included women and free people of color.
The tableau figures were made by StudioEIS with contributions from Carrie Fellows, Kirsten Hammerstrom, Scott Lance, Paul McClintock, Gabriela Salvador, Jana Violante, Janeen Violante, and Kalela Williams.
The election shown here took place on October 13-14, 1801 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.Explore the Rocky Hill Inn Learn More About the Ballot Box Explore the Election Poll List
Casting her vote into the ballot box, this woman represents an older generation of women whom critics labeled as “petticoat electors” in newspapers of the time. The phrase meant to diminish older women voters as inexperienced in politics and the pawns of male candidates.Learn More Explore Women Voting Together
Waiting in line to cast her ballot, this woman represents a young generation of “Wollstonecraftians,” a reference to English writer and political philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft. Critics of women voters used the term to suggest that young voters were modern, radical, and freethinking.Learn More Explore Women Voting Together
This voter is holding a replica of English and political philosopher Mary Wollstonecraft’s book “A Vindication of the Rights of Woman.” The first American book edition of Wollstonecraft’s work was printed in Philadelphia in 1794.
This woman clenches her hand in her pocket. Her eligibility to vote depended on her status as either a property owner, or as the enslaved property of one of the other women.Learn More