Some states allowed women to vote before the 19th Amendment.
Women in New Jersey had full voting rights from 1776-1807. This was not due to valuing equality as much as it was the gender-neutral language of the state’s constitution which gave voting rights to “all inhabitants of this colony, of full age, who are worth fifty pounds …and have resided within the county …for twelve months.”
However, this would only mean single relatively wealthy women since a woman’s money and property legally became her husband’s as soon as she married and fifty pounds was a fair amount of assets. (About $8,700 in today’s money) People of color who met this wealth standard could also vote. In an odd twist, white men who didn’t own property were disenfranchised by this criterion.
The law was changed not to enfranchise the people left out as much as it was to swing an election by voter suppression because while the 1807 revision dropped the wealth requirement thus allowing more white men to vote, the new wording clearly ended the right to vote for women and people of color.
The two major parties at the time were the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans. Women and people of color often voted for Federalist candidates so by taking away their vote, the Democratic-Republicans had a distinct advantage. In 1808, the Democratic-Republican candidate James Madison won that year’s presidential election.
It would take over 60 years and tremendous struggles until the next time a woman could legally vote. Several states passed universal or partial suffrage laws before 1920 but these were state laws, not federal. The attached map shows which states allowed voting before the passage of the 19th Amendment; New Jersey women would have to wait 113 years to regain the right to vote.
This week’s song pick:
“I’m A Woman” by Raquel Welch and Miss Piggy https://youtu.be/c7wNoATQ8sA
Episode 02 Sources: