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Vol. I, No. 4 July, 1916

Smith College Studies
in History









Published Quarterly by the
Department of History of Smith College

Entered as second class matter December 14, 1915, at the postofflce at
Northampton, Mass., under the act of August 24, 1912.




The Smith College Studies in History is published quarterly, in
October, Januarj', April and July, by the Department of History of Smith
College. The subscription price is fifty cents for single numbers, one
dollar and a half for the year. Subscriptions and requests for exchanges
should be addressed to Professor Sidney B. Fay, Northampton, Mass.

The Smith College Studies in History aims primarily to afford a
medium for the publication of studies in History and Government by
investigators who have some relation to the College, either as faculty,
alumnae, students or friends. In aims also to publish from time to time
brief notes in the field of History and Government which may be of
special interest to alumnae of Smith College and to others interested in
the higher education of women. Contributions of studies or notes which
promise to further either of these aims will be welcomed, and should be
addressed to Professor John S. Bassett, Northampton, Mass.






Chapters I-VIII

Vol. I, No. 4 July, 1916

Smith College Studies
in History









Published Quarterly by the
Department of History of Smith College

Women's Suffrage in New Jersey: 1790-1807

By Edward Raymond Turner, Ph.D.

Professor of History, the University of Michigan

[Note: The author had completed the research for this paper and
most of the writing of it, when he learned that Dr. Annie Heloise Abel
had for some time been collecting data for the future composition of an
article on the same subject. It was afterwards seen that both had
examined, apparently, the existing material, and had obtained nearly
identical results. Under the circumstances two studies were not to be
thought of; and collaboration upon one, while considered, was ultimately
deemed inadvisable. This study, then, is substantially as I wrote it early in
1913, but Dr. Abel has not only read it over, but contributed a great deal
of constructive criticism, numerous references, and not a few of her
own ideas. Those used by me, which are supplementary to what I had
myself discovered, I have marked "A", though it must be said that
the portions so marked denote only a small part of the service rendered.
I am not sure that Dr. Abel would approve of all parts of this study,
but I am very certain that I have written it a great deal better because
of her encouragement and assistance. — E. R. T.]

Increasing agitation about extending the franchise to women
ihas been accompanied by study of the position of women in the
past, with the intention of proving that once they had pohtical
rights which afterwards were lost. It is pointed out that women
as well as men inherited feudal tenure, partook of gild privileges,
and held rights in boroughs ;^ that they granted money to the
king of England, were summoned to parliament, and could return
members to parliament.- In the history of the American colonies
it has been noted that Margaret Brent asserted her right to sit
in the assembly of Maryland.^ In some cases, I think, false
conclusions with respect to suffrage have certainly been drawn.

^Pollock and Maitland, History of English Latv (Camliridge, 1911),
L 72, 262, 263, 308. 314; Luchaire, La Societe Francaise an Temps de
Philippe-Auguste (Paris, 1909), p. Z72>; Gross, The Gild Merchant, I, 29,
30, II. 4, 14, 49, 125, 127, 128, 212; Porritt, The Unrcf armed House of
Commons, I, 39, 40, 78, 79, 97, (A).

- Rotuli Parliamcntorum, III, 546; Palgrave, Parliamentary Writs, I,
164; May, Constitutional History of England, vol. Ill, by Francis Holland
(New York, 1912), p. 59 (A); C. C. Stopes, British Freewomen, Their
Historical Privilege, p. 96; M. G. Fawcett, Women's Suffrage, pp. 8, 9.

^Archives of Maryland, I, 215.

166 Smith College Studies ix History

In Xew Jersey, however, in the period from 1790 to 1807, women
were permitted to vote, and not a few of them actually did so.
It is probable that this is the most important instance of voting
in government elections by English-speaking women in any early

This story, like others similar, has to do largely with one of
the roughly drawn state constitutions of the early Revolutionary
period. In 1776 the second Continental Congress recommended
that the people of the colonies erect state governments. Accord-
ingly in Xew Jersey a convention meeting at Burlington, Trenton,
and Xew Brunswick, ]\Iay 26 to July 2, secretly drafted a docu-
ment w^hich shortly after was published. The manner in which
this convention did its work, and the reasons which led to the
particular form of the constitution, are scarcely known, for the
task was done in secret, and very scanty records have been pre-
served.'* But it is known that the draft was prepared in two
days, and agreed to in six more ■J-' and there is no doubt that
afterwards some of the provisions were found ill-considered and
others difificult to understand. In regard to the suffrage this
constitution provided that "all inhabitants" of the state having
certain qualifications might vote.^

In colonial times the franchise had been restricted practically
to freeholders,''' but at the beginning of the Revolution desire
for a wider electorate is manifest in numerous petitions for
allowing householders to vote.'^ As a result of this, in February,

* Journal of the Votes and Proceedings of the Convention of New-
Jersey. . . . 1776, etc. (Trenton. 1831).

' (Trenton) The State Gazette, and Xcxju Jersey Advertiser, March 27,

" "That all Inhabitants of this Colony, of full age, who are worth
fift)- pounds proclamation money, clear estate in the same, and have
resided within the county in which they claim a vote for twelve months
immediately preceding the election, shall be entitled to vote for Repre-
sentatives in Council and Assembly; and also for all other public officers,
that shall be elected by the people of the county at large" : Poore, federal
and State Constitutions, II, 1311.

'A. E. McKinley. The Suffrage Franchise in the Thirteen English
Colonies in America, pp. 228, 229, 238, 248 (A).

^Minutes of the Provincial Congress and Council of Safety (1879),
pp. 207, 220, 231, 340, 346, 372; American Archives, fourth series, IV. 1579,
1594 (A).

Women's Suffrage in New Jersey, 1790-1807 167

1776, the Provincial Congress had appointed a committee to pre-
pare an ordinance embodying an extension of the franchise to
"every person" of full age and of one year's residence and worth
fifty pounds.^ These were the provisions which were incorpor-
ated a little later in the constitution. It is not improbable that
the patriots, a minority in New Jersey, hoped to win to their
support numerous malcontents who desired a share in the govern-
ment of the commonwealth.

In 1777 an act passed to regulate elections did not state the
qualifications of electors, but declared that the judges of elections
were to be chosen by "the Inhabitants of each County, entitled
to vote for Representatives in the said Council and General As-
sembly," and that if objection were made to any person offering
to vote he should declare "I verily believe I am tzventy-one Years
of Age, and icorth Fifty Pounds laivfnl Money clear Estate in
this State; and that I am and have been for one zvhole Year last
past an Inhabitant of this Coiinty.^^ This act was continued
until 1779, when another was passed to the same effect. In 1783
a general election law stated the suffrage qualifications as clearly
as they had been laid down in the constitution : "All Inhabitants
of this State of full Age, who are worth Fifty Pounds, Proclama-
tion Money, clear Estate in the same, and have resided within
the County in which they claim a Vote for twelve Months im-
mediately preceding the Election, shall be entitled to vote for
Representatives in Council and Assembly, and also for all other
publick Officers that shall be elected by the People of the County
at large. "^^ Aleanwhile it does not seem that there was any
agitation as to whether the law and the constitution permitted
women to vote. The matter was neither affirmed nor denied,
and seems not to have been a subject of discussion.

In 1790 revision of the election law for certain counties was

''Minutes of the Provincial Congress, p. 2>7Z; also pp. 429, 430 (A).

" Acts of the . . . General Assemblx of the State of New-Jersey,
\776-\777, pp. 54, 56.

"^Ihid., pp. 123. 124 (October 11, 1777); Ibid., 1779, p. 98 (Tune 10,
1779) ; ibid., 1779-80, pp. 34, 35 (December 24, 1779) ; ihid., 1783, p. 17
(December 16, 1783).

168 Smith College Studies ix History

taken up in the assembly.^- It was said long after that on this
occasion, while a new bill was being drafted, Joseph Cooper, a
Friend of West Jersey, and a member of the committee in charge,
urged that women had the right to vote, and to please him the
committee reported a bill in which the franchise was conferred
upon voters referred to as "he or she."^^ The bill passed the
assembly with only three votes against it, and became law on
November 18.^^ This act declared that "all free Inhabitants of
this State" of full age and with the required qualifications of
residence and property "shall be entitled to vote," and that "no
Person shall be entitled to vote in any other Township or Precinct,
than that in which he or she doth actually reside at the Time of
the Election. "15 It may be remarked that the provisions of this
act were extended to other counties somewhat later. ^^

The account of the part taken by Joseph Cooper must be
regarded as traditional, but it would not be surprising if the
explicit inclusion of women in the franchise were brought about
through the influence of Friends, since the Quakers had consist-
ently maintained the essential equality of women with men.
Thomas Clarkson, who was about this time making a study of
the Friends in England, notes the good qualities and the practical
education of their women. "Independently of their private char-
acter," he adds, "they have that which no other body of women
have, a public character. "i'' Among the Friends women preached,
they appointed representatives to the meetings, held their own
councils at which women presided, chose their own committees,
and appointed women overseers and elders. They held office in

^ Votes and Proceedings of . . . the General Assembly of . . . New
Jersey, October 30, November 14. 1789. May 19, 21. October 27, 1790.

" W. A. Whitehead, "A Brief Statement of the Facts Connected with
the Origin, Practice and Prohibition of Female Suffrage in New Jersey,"
Proceedings of the New Jcrscx Historical Society, first series, VIII, 102

^* Votes of the Asscmblv, November 4, 1790; Acts of New Jersey,
1790, p. 669.

"^Acts of New Jersev, 1790, pp. 672, 673.

''Ibid., 1796, p. 49 (March 10).

" "This is a new era in female historv," he declares : A Portraiture
of Quakerism (New York, 1806), III, 246.'

Women's Suffr.\ge in New Jersey, 1790-1807 169

the same manner that men did, though they could not be corres-
pondents, arbitrators, legislators, or on committees of appeal.
Substantially no distinction was made between men and women in
the society.^- Notwithstanding, there is apparently at this time
no evidence that the w^omen of New Jersey, whether of the
society of Friends or not, sought the franchise or made use of it
after their right had been acknowledged.

For some years no important change was made in the election
law. When in 1794 an act was passed prescribing the manner
in which representatives were to be chosen to the Federal con-
gress, it was directed that the elections should be held "under
the same regulations"' as those under which members of the state
legislature were chosen. ^^ There was, however, considerable
dissatisfaction with the existing provisions owing to lack of uni-
formity and frequent change. In some counties of the state vot-
ing was by ballot, in others it was viva voce; but from time to
time counties were admitted to one class or taken over into the
other. -"^ A new law seemed desirable, and in 1796 a committee
was appointed to prepare a bill to secure "a uniform mode of
election." The bill which they reported was taken rapidly
through the council, and brought down to the assembly, where
with some amendment it was passed by a vote of thirty-two to
four.-i While it was passing through the legislature there seems
to have been no debate whatever on the subject of women's
franchise. The purpose of the bill was to secure uniformity
of procedure. - Again by this act "all free inhabitants" properly
qualified were to vote, and women were included as well as

"^Ibid., pp. 250, 251.

'"Acts of New Jersev. 1794-5. pp. 928, 931; ibid., 1796, p. 119.

"'Ibid., 1777, p. 61; 1779, p. 36; 1783. pp. 15-17, 75, 76; 1788, p. 502;
1790, p. 671 ; 1794, p. 950; 1795, p. 1059; 1796, p. 49.

^Journals of the Proceedings of the Legislative Council, October 26,
November 4, 10, 11, 12, 14, 1796; Votes of the Assembly, November 15,
1796, January 21, February 10, 16, 21, 22, 1797.

^ "By this bill the election throughout the state is made uniform, and
to be bv townships and by ballot:" (Newark) Centiiiel of Freedom,
March 15, 1797.

170 Smith College Studies in History

men, the legislators taking particular care to make this clear. ^3
It is not apparent that up to this time many women of New-
Jersey had availed themselves of the privilege accorded them,
but an instance soon occurred which attracted general attention.
In October, in Essex County, a lively contest arose between
John Condict of Newark and William Crane of Elizabeth, candi-
dates for the legislature respectively of the Republican and the
Federalist parties. Condict triumphed by a narrow margin, but
not until a throng of women in Elizabethtown had gone to the
polls in a last effort to save his rival. ^'^ The account of this oc-
currence, which was immediately published in the local paper,
was widely circulated.-^ The comment would seem to indicate
that this was the first time that any number of women had ever
voted in the state^^

The observations are very interesting. One writer of the op-
posing political party coarsely declared that "the husbands and
sweethearts of these heroines begin to suspect that some motive
other than a love of the federal cause excited the enterprize."
A local wit asserted that it was "a general opinion that females
ought not to intermeddle in poHtical affairs." He added that the
emperor of Java employed women to advantage in his diplomatic
service ; while a correspondent asked whether it was not probable
"that we should have obtained better terms in a certain treaty,
had some WIDOW been employed to negotiate it, instead of an

^ "No person shall be entitled to vote in any other township or precinct,
than that in which he or she doth actually reside at the time of the
election:" Acts of New Jersey, 1797, pp. 171-174 (February 22). "Every
voter shall openly, and in full view deliver his or her ballot ... to the
said judge:" ibid., p. 173. It should be noted, however, that in 1798 an
act for the regulation of townships declared that "every white male
person" with qualifications required might vote on township matters,
"and no other person:" Laws of Xcw Jersey (published by William
Patterson, Newark, 1800), p. 283 (A).

=' Whitehead, p. 102; (Newark) Centincl, October 18, 1797; Wood's
Newark Gazette, and New Jersey Advertiser, October 18. 1797.

^(Elizabethtown) New Jersey Journal, October 18, 1797; (Trenton)
State Gazette, October 24, 1797;' (Newark) Centinel, October 25, 1797.

^° Somewhat later this was specifically stated : "It will be recollected
that it was at Elizabeth that the women were first introduced to the
election poll in this county, and I believe in this state :" "Manlius" in
(Newark) Centinel, February 17, 1807.

Women's Suffrage in Xew Jersey, 1790-1807 171

extraordinary MALE minister.'"^'' Some of the comments had
a curiously modern tone. One observer spoke of the "rights of
women,"-^ and another pubhshed a humourous poem, striking in
itself, and of interest as affording a clue to the arguments which
advocates of the cause had been urging:

XEW-JERSEY hail ! thrice happy state !

th}- genius still befriends thee ;
The Arts obedient round thee wait,

and Science still attends thee :
In freedom's cause you gain'd applause,

and nobly spurned subjection;
You're now the Oracle of Laiis,

and Freedom of Election!

Let Democrats, with senseless prate,

maintain the softer sex, sir.
Should ne'er with politics of state

their gentle minds perplex, sir;
Such vulgar prejudice we scorn;

their sex is no objection:
New trophies shall our brows adorn,

by Freedom of Election!

What tho' we read, in days of yore,

the woman's occupation.
Was to direct the wheel and loom,

not to direct the nation :
This narrow-minded policy

by us hath met detection ;
W'hile woman's bound, man can't be free,

nor have a fair Election.

Oh ! what parade those widows made !

some marching cheek b}- jole, sir;
In stage, or chair, some beat the air,

and press'd on to the Pole, sir:
While men of rank, who played this prank,

beat up the widow's quarters;
Their hands they laid on every maid,

and scarce spar'd wives, or daughters !

"(Newark) Centinel, October 18, 1797; (Elizabethtown) Xew Jersey
Journal, October 18, 1797.

™ "The Rights of Man have been warmly insisted on by Tom Paine
and other democrats, but we outstrip them in the science of government,
and not only preach the Rights of Women, but boldh- push it into practice
— Madame Wolstencrafts has certainly the merit of broaching this sub-
ject:" (Newark) Centinel, October 18, 1797.

172 Smith Collece Studies in History

This precious clause of section laws

we shortly will amend, sir;
And woman's rights, with all our might,

we'll labour to defend, sir:
To Congress, lo ! widows shall go,

like metamorphosed witches !
Cloath'd with the dignity of state,

and eke, in coat and breeches !

Then freedom hail! thy powers prevail

o'er prejudice and error;
No longer shall man tyrannize,

and rule the world in terror :
Now one and all, proclaim the fall

of Tyrants ! — Open wide your throats,
And welcome in the peaceful scene,

of government in petticoats ! ! !

It was predicted that "as women are now to take a part in
the jurisprudence of our state, w^e may shortly expect to see them
take the helm — of government. "-'^

The affair seems to have been an unusual one, and I have
found no mention of women exercising the franchise in the years
immediately following; but it is said that they voted throughout
the state in 1800, and there is no doubt that they voted in a state
election in 1802, and probably in another also four years later.-"^*^
In 1798 a waiter lamented the fact that voting by women gave
the towns advantage over the country, because townsmen could
more easily bring their women to elections, and declared that
"Many important election contests, have been terminated at last,
by these auxiliaries." ^^ It would appear, however, that they did
not vote generally or on many occasions, since the newspapers
do not usually mention them in describing elections.^- It is, of
course possible that the papers fail to comment upon what had
come to be regarded as a matter of course, but there is reason to

^"The Freedom of Election. A New Song. To the Tunc of — The
Battle of the Kegs," ibid.

'"Whitehead, p. 103; (Trenton) True American. October 25, 1802;
Votes of the Assonblv. November 16, 1802; (Newark) Centinel. February
17, 1807.

""Eumenes" in (Trenton) State Gazette, January 23, 1798.

'"For example, (Newark) Centinel, January 4, 1797 (A) ; The Newark
Gazette, October 21. 28, 1800; (Morristown) Genius of Libertv. October
23, 1800; Centinel, October 23, November 13, 1804.

Women's Suffrage in New Jersey, 1790-1807 173

believe that the people of New Jersey did not so look upon the

From the first there had been doubt as to the propriety of
women being admitted to the sufifrage,^^ and very soon their right
to participate was called in question. Beginning in 1796 and
continuing through the next four years appeared a remarkable
series of newspaper articles, which criticised the constitution
and explained the necessity of revising it.^^ In 1798 the author
said : "It has ever been a matter of dispute upon the constitution,
whether females, as well as males, are entitled to elect officers of
government. If we were to be guided by the letter of the charter,
it would seem to place them on the same footing in this particular ;
and yet, recurring to political right and the nature of things, a
very forcible construction has been raised against the admission of
zvomen, to participate in the public sufifrage."^^ In 1799 a corres-
pondent writing to his paper urged the desirability of amending
the state constitution. Among the things to be considered, he said,
was the placing of the rights "of electors and elected upon safer
and more rational principles" by "ascertaining the right of females
to vote at elections. "^*^ In the year following the editor of the
Newark Centinel bitterly arraigned the corruption of the Federal-
ists of Elizabethtown in bringing forward "the widows and
maids of that place ... to vote for the federal ticket. "''' In
1802 a writer decrying a corrupt election said, "we have seen in

^(Elizabethtown) Nezv Jersey Journal, October 18, 1797; (Trenton)
State Gazette. October 24, 1797; (Newark) Centinel, October 25, 1797.

''Published in (Trenton) State Gazette, March, 1796, February 14,
1797, January 9, 16, 23, 30, February 6, 13, 20, 27, March 6, 20, 27, April
3, June 12, July 24, 31, August 14, 21, September 4, 11, 18, October 2, 9,
30, November 6, 1798, and in other numbers. Apparently some of the
articles were printed in various papers: (Morristown) Genius of Liberty,
October 9, 1800 (A). Many of them were published together as a pam-
phlet: Eumenes: Being a Collection of Papers, Written for the purpose
of exhibiting some of the more prominent Errors and Omissions of'
the Constitution of New-Jersey . . . and to Prove the N'ecessity of Calling
a Convention, for Revision and Amendment (Trenton, 1799). The author
was William Griffith of Burlington. For the quotations from Eumenes
I am indebted to the late William Nelson of Paterson, New Jersey.

^^ Eumenes, p. ii; State Gazette, January 23, 1798.

^^ (Trenton) Federalist, November 4, 1799.

" (Newark) Centinel, December 9, 1800.

174 Smith College Studies ix History

Elizabeth-Town the practice of bringing women and girls to
vote first introduced, in direct violation of the spirit and in-
tention of the law."3s

To some there appeared no doubt that women were enfran-
chised by the constitution of the state,^^ and that the state election
laws confirmed this. In 1800 a member of the legislature de-
clared that when the Assembly was considering a bill to regulate
the election of representatives to the Congress of the United
States, a motion w^as made to amend by adding: "That it is the
true intent and meaning of this act, that the inspectors of elections
in the several Townships of this State, shall not refuse the vote
of any widow or unmarried woman of full age . . . provided
each of the said persons shall make it appear on oath or otherwise,
to the satisfaction of the said inspectors, that . . . she is worth
£50 clear estate." The amendment was rejected because it was
said that the constitution clearly guaranteed this right to women,
and the inspectors must be guided thereby. "Our Constitution,"

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