1754-1770

1754

The French and Indian War — also known as the “Seven Years War” — begins. This conflict put Britain and her colonies against the French and Native American nations. The war ends in 1763 with the Treaty of Paris, greatly expanding Britain’s empire in North America.

1756

Lydia Chapin Taft votes in Uxbridge, Massachusetts.

1765

Sir William Blackstone publishes Commentaries on the Laws of England, reinforcing the tradition of “coverture” — that once married, a woman’s property belongs to her husband and she has no legal rights. “Coverture” was brought over by the British colonists who followed the traditions of English Common Law.

1765

The Stamp Act is passed by the British Parliament, placing a direct tax on newspapers, playing cards, and pamphlets. Some colonists view this as unfair taxation without representation and formed organizations called the Sons and Daughters of Liberty. These groups begin to organize boycotts of British goods. Women take an active role in the protest movement by producing homespun cloth and other items.

And be in known unto Britain, even American daughters are Politicians and Patriots, and will aid the good work with their female efforts.”

Hannah Winthrop to Mercy Ottis Warren, January 1, 1774
1770-1776

1772

Mercy Otis Warren publishes plays advocating for independence from Great Britain by mocking British Colonial Officials and urging colonists to resist British policies.

1773

Phillis Wheatley, the first enslaved person to publish a book, writes Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral. Wheatley uses her pen to show white colonists that enslaved African Americans have souls and minds, and thus deserve liberty.

1774

Fifty-one women gather in Edenton, South Carolina, to sign a protest resolving to boycott English cloth, tea and other goods. This event is later called the Edenton Tea Party.

Explore Women in the Revolutionary War
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC

1775

The Royal Governor of Virginia, Lord Dunmore, issues a proclamation stating that any enslaved people who are owned by rebels and who will fight with the British will be given their freedom. Thousands of men and women flock to his position, but many die of disease.

April 19, 1775

War begins when British forces fight Massachusetts militia at Lexington Green, Concord’s North Bridge, and on the roads back to Boston.

1776

March 31, 1776

Abigail Adams writes to her husband John Adams, urging him to “Remember the Ladies” in the new Code of Laws.

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Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

...in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.”

Abigail Adams, March 31, 1776

July 2, 1776

The New Jersey State Constitution is adopted. It uses the gender-neutral pronoun “they” and does not include racial categories in its election law.

That same day, the Second Continental Congress votes to break all political ties with Great Britain.

Explore the New Jersey State Constitution
New Jersey State Archives, Department of State

July 4, 1776

Public announcement and publication of the Declaration of Independence.

1776-1783

December 10, 1777

New Jersey passes an Act ordering the confiscation of Loyalist’s personal property. 

April 20, 1777

The New York State Constitution defines voters as “male inhabitants.”

1777

The Vermont Constitution becomes the first to provide for universal male suffrage and outlaw slavery.

1777

The Georgia State Constitution becomes the first constitution to abolish the inheritance practices of primogeniture. This practice had ensured that the eldest son in a family inherited the largest portion of his father's property.

1777

Martha Washington visits her husband at Valley Forge as the Continental army faces a harsh winter, 20 miles from British occupied Philadelphia. Women camp followers help the army with domestic chores and nursing the sick.

Explore Camp Followers
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC

June 28, 1778

The Battle of Monmouth, where “Molly Pitcher” or women like Mary Ludwig Hays and Margaret Corbin supposedly served, takes place. There is no clear winner.

1778

Washington agrees to begin accepting some soldiers of African descent into the Continental Army. These men are already represented in many state militias and navies, as well as on privateer ships.

April 30, 1779

Massachusetts passes the Confiscation Act. Their Act explicitly encourages wives of Loyalist men to break from their husbands and in doing so, protect the family’s property. 

October 22, 1779

New York passes the Forfeiture Act empowering the state to seize and sell Loyalists’ forfeited property.

1780

Pennsylvania passes the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery. It is the first state to pass such a law, but others follow.

1780

Esther Reed publishes “Sentiments of an American Woman.” Reed’s work encourages women in Philadelphia and other cities to fundraise for the Continental Army. 

August 22, 1781

Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman secures her freedom from slavery in Massachusetts. 

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Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Any time while I was a slave, if one minute's freedom had been offered to me, and I had been told that I must die at the end of that minute, I would have taken it just to stand one minute on God's earth a free woman.”

Elizabeth Freeman

October 18, 1781

The Continental Army, with the help of the French Navy, defeats the British at the Battle of Yorktown. Although Yorktown is the last major battle of the Revolution, the war continues for two more years.

1782

Deborah Sampson disguises herself as a male soldier and enlists in the 4th Massachusetts Regiment to fight with the Continental Army. Sampson takes the name Robert Shurtliff and fights for two years. Although her identity is eventually discovered, she receives an honorary discharge. Sampson returns home and marries Benjamin Gannett in 1785.

Learn more about Deborah Sampson
Courtesy of Historic New England. Gift of Ann B. Gilbert, Carol Bostock Kraner, Susan Goldstone and Louise Bostock Lehman Sonneborn in memory of Beatrice Weeks Bostock, 1998.5875

1782

Peace talks begin in Paris and British forces begin evacuating American cities.

September 3, 1783

The United States and Britain sign the Treaty of Paris to bring the Revolutionary War to an end. 

1784-1790

1786

The New Jersey State Legislature prohibits bringing slaves imported into the country after 1776 into New Jersey. It does not prohibit interstate slave trading. 

September 17, 1787

The U.S. Constitution is signed.

June 21, 1788

The U.S. Constitution is adopted. It gives states the power to establish their own voting qualifications.

April 3, 1789

George Washington is unanimously elected and inaugurated as the first President of the United States. 

May 5, 1789

The French Revolution begins when citizens rise up against absolute monarchy and King Louis XVI. 

1790-1797

November 18, 1790

The New Jersey State Legislature passes an Act revising the regulations of the election law to include “he or she” in 7 of 13 counties in New Jersey (Bergen, Burlington, Gloucester, Hunterdon, Monmouth, Salem, and Sussex). This law also institutes township voting in these counties.

Explore the 1790 Electoral Reform Law
New Jersey State Archives, Department of State

1790

Susanna Rowson publishes her bestselling novel, Charlotte Temple in England; it will not be published in America until 1797.

1791

The United States Bill of Rights is ratified.

1791

Judith Sargent Murray publishes “On Equality of the Sexes.”

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Terra Foundation for American Art, Daniel J. Terra Art Acquisition Endowment Fund, 2000.6

Are we deficient in reason? We can only reason from what we know, and if opportunity of acquiring knowledge hath been denied us, the inferiority of our sex cannot fairly be deduced from thence…”

Judith Sargent Murray, “On the Equality of the Sexes,” 1790

1791

Olympe de Gouges publishes The Declaration of the Rights of Woman (in France).

August 14, 1791

The Haitian Revolution begins when enslaved people revolt against French colonial rule.

1792

Mary Wollstonecraft publishes Vindication of the Rights of Woman (in England).

1794

Susanna Rowson writes and performs Slaves in Algiers in Philadelphia.

Learn more about Susanna Rowson
Susanna Rowson Papers, 1770-1879, in the Clifton Waller Barrett Library, Accession #7379--7379-c, Special Collections, University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.

Women were born for universal sway; Men to adore, be silent, and obey."

Susanna Rowson, “Slaves in Algiers,” 1794

July 1794

The Whiskey Rebellion, an uprising against the liquor tax in Pennsylvania, begins. The rebellion comes to an end in 1794 when the U.S. Marshals suppress the resistance.

1797-1800

February 22, 1797

The New Jersey Legislature passes a statewide Act revising the regulations of the election law to include “he or she,” lower the property requirement for voters from “fifty pounds proclamation money clear estate in the same” to “fifty pounds proclamation money,” and institutes township voting across the state.

Explore the 1797 Electoral Reform Law
New Jersey State Archives, Department of State

March 4, 1797

Washington leaves office. John Adams becomes the second president of the United States. 

October 1797

In Elizabeth, New Jersey, a bitter contest for a seat in the New Jersey State Legislature erupts between Jeffersonian Republican John Condict from Newark, and Federalist William Crane, from Elizabeth. Condict wins the election by a narrow margin.

This election introduces two factions of the Democratic-Republican Party, the radicals and moderates.

1797

Susanna Rowson opens the Young Ladies’ Academy in Boston, Massachusetts.

November 15, 1797

Abigail Adams writes to her sister, Mary Cranch, supporting women voters in New Jersey.

1797

John Adams recalls Eleanor “Nelly” Parke Custis having ridden to the polls on horseback in Virginia demanding her right to vote as a freeholder.

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Courtesy of Mount Vernon Ladies' Association

1797

The XYZ Affair occurs when diplomatic negotiations between American and French diplomats fail. The incident results in the undeclared Quasi-War, a naval war with France from 1798 to 1800.

1798

Federalist President John Adams signs the Alien and Sedition Acts into law. These acts, passed in four parts, increase the residency requirement for American citizenship from 5 to 14 years.

Learn more about American fears of foreign influence
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C, Reproduction Number LC-DIG-ppmsca-31156

1798

Judith Sargent Murray publishes The Gleaner, a book of essays advocating for women’s rights.

1798

Charles Brockden Brown publishes Alcuin, a dialogue on women’s rights.

November 9, 1799

The French Revolution ends when Napoleon Bonaparte appoints himself France’s “first consul.”

1800-1807

October 1800

New Jersey voters vote “no” on the question of whether to reconvene the state constitutional convention (and potentially amend the 1797 election law). 

In Bedminster Township, Somerset County, New Jersey, a state election takes place. Three women vote in that election, and 2 vote against reconvening the state constitutional convention.

December 1800

Twenty-nine women (of 217 voters) vote in a congressional election in Upper Penns Neck Township, Salem County, New Jersey. A total of at least 75 women vote in state or congressional elections in Upper Penns Neck from 1800 - 1806, some voting year after year.

March 4, 1801

John Adams leaves office. Thomas Jefferson, elected in 1800, becomes the third president of the United States. 

New Jersey, for the first time, reports a Democratic-Republican legislative majority.

Learn more about the Rise of Partisan Politics in New Jersey
From the Collections of the Bergen County Historical Society, bergencountyhistory.org.

October 13, 1801

A state election takes place in Montgomery Township, Somerset County, New Jersey. Of 343 total voters, at least 46 are women and at least four are free Black male voters.

1802

Judith Sargent Murray helps open a female academy in Dorchester, Massachusetts. 

October 1802

Petitions taken in Maidenhead Township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, urge the state legislature to overturn an 1802 election. Petitioners allege that married women, enslaved people, “aliens” and non-residents had voted illegally. 

New Jersey residents began submitting petitions to the state legislature citing voter fraud and suppression as early as 1783. From 1783 to 1807, 73 petitions were submitted to the state (37 for voter suppression, 36 voter fraud).

Explore the Petition
New Jersey State Archives, Department of State

1802

Congress repeals the Naturalization Act.

April 30, 1803

The United States acquires the territory of Louisiana (827,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi) from France.

January 1, 1804

The Haitian Revolution ends and the colony of Haiti wins its independence from France.

February 15, 1804

New Jersey passes a Gradual Abolition Act. The Act declares children born to enslaved women after July 4, 1804 to be “free” after reaching the age of 21 for women, and 25 for men.

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New-York Historical Society

1805

Martin v. Commonwealth of Massachusetts sets a legal precedent that married women did not have separate political identities or citizenship from their husbands under “coverture.”

March 2, 1807

Congress passes the Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves, abolishing the international slave trade in the United States, while permitting the internal slave trade to continue. It is scheduled to take effect on January 1, 1808.

October 1807

A state election takes place in Chester Township, Burlington County, New Jersey. Of 260 voters, 38 are women. The election marks one of the last elections in the state that women and free people of color are legally able to participate in.

November 16, 1807

A contested local election in Essex County over the location of a courthouse causes further disputes over voter fraud. As a result, the New Jersey State Legislature amends the State Constitution to define voters as free, white male tax-paying citizens.

Explore the 1807 Electoral Reform Law
New Jersey State Archives, Department of State

Be it enacted…no person shall vote in any state or county election for officers in the government of the United States, or of this state, unless such person be a free, white, male citizen of this state…”

The New Jersey State Legislature, Acts of New Jersey, November 16, 1807

December 22, 1807

President Thomas Jefferson signs the Embargo Act into law. The law prohibits American ships from trading in all foreign ports.

1808-1850

1809

Connecticut becomes one of the first states to pass a statute granting married women contractual or testamentary control over property held at law. 

1818

New Jersey passes an Act freeing women from the possibility of debt imprisonment. 

1844

New Jersey State Constitutional Convention convenes and rewrites the New Jersey State Constitution; it defines voters as free, white male citizens. This same year, a group of Burlington men petition to reinstate women’s right to vote, but are unsuccessful. 

1848

New York passes the Married Women’s Property Act protecting women’s right to property in marriage.

1848

The Seneca Falls Convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton delivers the Declaration of Sentiments, modeled after the Declaration of Independence. The women at Seneca Falls call for “all men and women” to be created equal.

Learn more about Stanton and the Woman Suffrage Movement
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC

1848

Historian and author Elizabeth Ellet publishes the first history of women in the American Revolution, introducing figures like the legendary “Molly Pitcher.” She does not include any women of color.

1852-1870

1852

New Jersey passes “An Act for better securing the property of married women.”

1854

Monmouth Assemblyman Henry Lafetra petitions the New Jersey State Legislature to revise state statutes to establish a “legal equality of women and men.” He is unsuccessful.

1855

The New Jersey State Legislature defeats “An Act securing Equality of Rights to Women & Men” (which included women’s custody rights to children).

1856

Universal white male suffrage is granted in all states.

1857

Lucy Stone refuses to pay her property taxes, claiming she is not represented in her government. Her calls for “no taxation without representation” remind Americans of the rallying cry used to protest British policies in the years leading up to the war.

1857

Quaker Harriet Lafetra leads Monmouth County residents in petitioning the state legislature on behalf of women’s rights and woman suffrage.

1864

New Jersey grants women the power to dispose of property by will.

1867

Lucy Stone addresses the New Jersey State Legislature claiming her right to vote and to property, citing women voters in New Jersey from 1776 to 1807.

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Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC

1868

Lucy Stone and Antoinette Brown Blackwell petition the New Jersey Legislature asking for the enfranchisement of women and reforms in married women’s property rights.

1868

Portia Gage and 171 women, White and Black, in Vineland, New Jersey organize a public demonstration and protest at the presidential election. They bring a ballot box built from blueberry crates to cast their votes.

Explore the Vineland Ballot Box
Vineland Historical and Antiquarian Society

1868

The 14th Amendment is passed extending citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States, including formerly enslaved people.

1869

The Territory of Wyoming passes woman suffrage.

1870

The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution is ratified granting the right to vote to African American men. Some Black women suffragists, like Sojourner Truth, and women’s rights organizations are angered that the amendment does not include women.

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Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, D.C.

…and if colored men get their rights, and not colored women theirs, you see the colored men will be the masters over the women, and it will be just as bad as it was before. So I am for keeping the thing going while things are stirring; because if we wait till it is still, it will take a great while to get it going again.”

Sojourner Truth, Address to the First Annual Meeting of the American Equal Rights Association, 1867
1872-1900

1872

Susan B. Anthony and Sojourner Truth are arrested for attempting to vote.

1874

New Jersey passes a more comprehensive Married Women’s Property Act.

July 4, 1876

Susan B. Anthony and National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA) members stage a protest at the 1876 Centennial Celebration in Philadelphia. Suffragists interrupt the reading of the Declaration of Independence at Independence Hall to read their own Declaration of the Rights of Women.

Learn more about women and the 1876 Centennial Celebration
Collection of Ann Lewis and Mike Sponder

1878

New Jersey passes an Act Protecting Women’s Earnings Under Marriage.

1880

Elizabeth Cady Stanton attempts to vote in Tenafly, New Jersey, where she references early women voters in New Jersey as a precedent for women’s suffrage. She is turned away and does not cast a ballot.

On the sacred soil of New Jersey, where we now stand, women voted thirty-one years, from 1776 to 1807.”

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, November 1880

1890

The State of Wyoming passes woman suffrage, becoming the first state to permanently grant women the right to vote.

1890

The Indian Naturalization Act allows Native Americans to apply for citizenship. Native Americans are not granted the right to vote until passage of the Indian Citizenship Act in 1924, though many remain disenfranchised.

1893

Colorado passes woman suffrage.

1896

Utah and Idaho pass woman suffrage.

1901-1920

1912

In the Carpenter v. Cornish case lawyer Mary Philbrook argues that New Jersey’s elimination of female suffrage is illegal. The case rejects Philbrook’s stance and upholds the 1844 election law limiting the vote to male citizens in the state.

1915

Voters in New Jersey defeat a state referendum that would pass woman suffrage in the state.

Explore the Stamp
Collection of Ann Lewis and Mike Sponder

1916

Jeannette Rankin of Montana becomes the first woman elected to the House of Representatives in Congress. She uses her position in Congress to push for an amendment that will guarantee women the right to vote.

1917

New York grants the right to vote to women in a state referendum. It is the only northern state to do so.

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C., Reproduction Number LC-DIG-ds-12369

1917

The United States enters World War I. Women’s contributions help drive actions to pass a national woman suffrage amendment.

1917

Alice Paul, a New Jersey Quaker, forms the National Woman’s Party (NWP), a more militant suffrage organization that sought to pass a national suffrage amendment.

Learn more about Alice Paul
Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, [reproduction number, e.g., [LC-F82-1234]

1919

Oklahoma and South Dakota pass woman suffrage.

1919

The United States Congress approves the 19th Amendment, which grants suffrage to women, and it is sent to the states for ratification.

August 18, 1920

Congress ratifies the 19th Amendment.

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Library of Congress, Manuscript Division, Records of the National Woman's Party

August 26, 1920

The 19th Amendment is adopted nationally, granting most American women the right to vote. Building on this and all earlier efforts, women who do not immediately get to enjoy this right continue their fight to have this Amendment apply to them.