August 12, 2020
August 18 marks the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees American women the right to vote. Before that time, the laws on women voting varied state by state. Wyoming was the first state to grant voting rights to women in 1869. Suffrage movements grew during the early 20th century as women’s suffragists found various ways to make their voices heard.
If you are researching your female ancestors, you may try looking for them in voter registration lists. FamilySearch, in partnership with the Midwest Genealogy Center, digitized Missouri, Jackson County Voter Registration Records, 1928-1956. Voter registration lists in books can be found by searching MGC’s online catalog. Newspapers often printed interest pages with all types of articles about women’s activities, including clubs and causes they supported. Maybe your ancestor was a suffragist!
My ancestor, Miss Adelaide Smith, was an original member of the first suffrage society in Brooklyn, New York. I used the MCPL database Newspapers.com LE to find articles about her. She appeared in a 1913 photo driving a restored 1776 carriage that was used by the New York State Women’s Suffrage Association to promote their cause. The women dressed in period clothes and made their way throughout the state on their Woman Suffrage Caravan.
New York granted women the right to vote in 1917, but Adelaide never cast a vote herself. In December of 1914, at the age of 84, she died in a tragic accident. She was struck and killed by a runaway automobile while walking on the sidewalk in Brooklyn. Although she never got the opportunity to exercise her right to vote, I appreciate her efforts to ensure that those who followed her, including me, could do so.
Do you have an ancestor you owe a vote of thanks to for their role in helping pass the 19th Amendment?
Midwest Genealogy Center
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