Did you know women could vote in New Jersey as far back as 1776? I didn't until I learned about this historical truth from "George Washington On Leadership"- author Richard Brookhiser on the August 28, 2008 Colbert Report.
Intrigued, I decided to do some research to satisfy my curiousity of just what caused the women of New Jersey to lose their right to vote in 1807.
My, my, my, it appears some dastardly politician did them in for voting in large numbers for his opponent ten years before.
"New Jersey granted women the vote (with the same property qualifications as for men, although, since married women did not own property in their own right, only unmarried women and widows qualified) under the state constitution of 1776, where the word "inhabitants" was used without qualification of sex or race. New Jersey women, along with "aliens...persons of color, or negroes," lost the vote in 1807, when the franchise was restricted to white males, partly in order, ostensibly at least, to combat electoral fraud by simplifying the conditions for eligibility."-
In 1806, a new court house was proposed for Essex County to replace the old one at Newark. Elizabethtown wanted that new courthouse and, with a majority of themselves on the local board, waylaid Newark. To bring fairness to the matter, the New Jersey legislature passed a law ordering a vote to determine the location of the new court house. The ferocity of the divide eventually reached a point when it became unsafe for Elizabethians to even visit Newark. The voting, which began February 10, 1806, started out with civility, then fraud became rampant. By February 12th, the last voting day, fraudulent voting went beyond all shame: many voters unscreened and repeating their votes from polling place to polling place. Even nonresidents were transported in to fatten the vote for Newark. Women and girls voted again and again, and even men and boys disguised themselves as women in order to repeat their votes. Newark won. Elizabethtown lost. But Elizabethtown petitioned the legislature for a new election due to the obvious vote fraud. The legislature agreed. The election voided. A new election law under consideration was immediately amended by Mr. Condict, a republican candidate of 1797 who's political career was nearly terminated, then, by a hugh women's vote for his opponent. His amendment contained a provision stripping away the right to vote from all women residing in New Jersey. He cited the voting fraud of the largely female (and cross-dressing males) in Essex over the new courthouse. The bill passed both houses by heavy majorities to become law. The women of New Jersey appeared largely indifferent to losing their voting rights. For a detailed history of these events, go to:
the source from which most of my brief research was extracted from.
Retired, Robert Arend was president of an AFSCME local from 1997-2007.
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