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Working for Women's Suffrage, 1915

Courtesy, New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, NJ
Amelia Berndt Moorfield Collection

Click on image to enlarge.

Suffragist petitioning a New Jersey Suffragist poll watcher during the 1915 canal worker New Jersey referendum

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Suffragist poll watcher during the 1915 New Jersey referendum


 In the early 20th century, even though women did not have the vote, they could use their various rights as citizens to press their cause of woman suffrage. Their right of petition was one that women had used since the early 19th century to pressure the New Jersey legislature to take action on various reforms. Temperance, reform of women’s property rights, change in divorce and family laws, and women’s equal rights under the law were issues for which women circulated petitions to the state senate and assembly. In the photograph, above left, a suffragist invites a male voter, a canal worker, to sign a woman suffrage petition.

In 1915, the New Jersey Legislature approved the holding of a referendum on the matter of adding a woman suffrage amendment to the state constitution. As the time for the referendum approached, suffrage organizations trained women as poll watchers to witness the management of the election. In the photograph, above right, a suffragist watches while a voter casts his vote. After the election, suffrage leaders complained of election fraud. It was reported that "[a]ll day in the cities the women watchers saw little groups of men taken into saloons opposite the polling places by persons avowedly working to defeat [the referendum], instructed how to vote on it, marshaled to the polling place and after voting taken back to the saloon to be paid." The referendum was defeated, primarily in urban areas.

Women's Project of New Jersey
Copyright 2002, The Women's Project of New Jersey, Inc.

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