The Constitution and Suffrage

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America at Mid-Century

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Women’s Suffrage

Women Get the Vote

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The Promised Land

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3.05 Women's Suffrage

Women's Suffragist Parade marching down Fifth Avenue, New York City, 1912.

The first women to vote in the United States lived in New Jersey, immediately after 1776 when the state constitution's suffrage requirements included all "free inhabitants" meeting property requirements. Women with property used this loophole to vote in New Jersey until the state legislature ended women's voting in 1807.

It was not until 1848 that women in the abolitionist movement turned their sights on their own rights - at the Seneca Falls Women's Rights Convention, they drafted the Declaration of Sentiments. Modeled after the Declaration of Independence, it stated, "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal." The Convention narrowly approved a statement in favor of the radical concept of women's suffrage, setting in motion a 72-year movement.

Suffrage campaign days in New Jersey, circa 1914-1920.

Suffrage was a distant goal in 1848, but the women's movement did make slow progress on expanding the legal rights of women within the family and in guaranteeing their property rights. During the Reconstruction era leading figures in the movement unsuccessfully demanded women's suffrage be included in the Fifteenth Amendment, which granted the vote to African American men.

This position led to a split within the suffrage movement in 1867. Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Sojourner Truth, and Susan B. Anthony opposed the Reconstruction amendments because they excluded women. Others within the movement, including Lucy Stone and the abolitionist Frederick Douglass, believed that women's suffrage could wait until after African Americans had won civil and voting rights.

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