Before Equal Suffrage: Women in Partisan Politics from Colonial Times to 1920

By Robert J. Dinkin | Go to book overview
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Chapter 6
Women Begin to Vote

In the long run, nothing encouraged the movement of greater numbers of women into partisan politics than their being able to vote. Indeed, the noteworthy performance of female voters in the first few suffrage states in the late nineteenth century and after helped break down barriers so that women could eventually cast ballots in all states. Their positive response ultimately put to rest opposition claims that only "low" women like prostitutes would come to the polls, that the women's tally would simply duplicate the men's, and that most women had no interest in politics. In fact, women in the initial suffrage states often showed a political sophistication beyond that of their nonvoting sisters. They were much more likely to join partisan clubs and discuss important issues. As a group, they probably exhibited a stronger preference for political and social reform than women elsewhere. Furthermore, their accomplishments may have influenced reform-minded women in some of the eastern and midwestern states to get involved in the partisan realm even if lacking the vote. Clearly, the actions of these politicized women in the early suffrage states provided models for others of their sex to follow in the years to come.


VOTING IN SCHOOL ELECTIONS

Of course, some female voting in America had occurred even before the western suffrage states were established. As noted earlier, a few unmarried property-owning women cast ballots in colonial times, and a somewhat

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