The first national women’s rights convention was held in Worcester, MA in 1850. Beginning in 1879, Massachusetts women could vote in school board elections, and by 1900 women were on the School Committees in Beverly and Salem. Ethel Parton (1862-1944) a Newburyport journalist was an early suffragist and the first woman to serve on the board of directors of the Newburyport Public Library. In Ipswich, Elizabeth S. Cole was elected as the first female Ipswich selectman on March 10, 1970.
No woman has ever been elected to represent Ipswich and surrounding communities in the Massachusetts Fourth Essex State House District, or in the Massachusetts State Senate First Essex & Middlesex District.Massachusetts was the first state to organize an association of women opposed to suffrage. MAOFESW (Massachusetts Association Opposed to the Further Extension of Suffrage to Women) was founded in 1882, and for the next 38 years, the “Antis” and men worked jointly to keep Massachusetts women from having the right to vote.
In 1915, an amendment was proposed to the Massachusetts Constitution that would strike the word “male” from wording that guaranteed the right to vote. Pro-suffrage victory parades were held in Boston on May 2, 1914 and Oct. 16, 1915, but MAOFESW mailed a pamphlet to every voter titled “The Case Against Woman Suffrage” equating women’s suffrage with socialism.
On November 2, 1915, Massachusetts men rejected universal suffrage with only 35% voting yes.
It was on the national stage that suffrage finally prevailed. The Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibiting the states and the federal government from denying the right to vote to citizens of the United States on the basis of sex was submitted by Congress on June 4, 1919. Massachusetts was the eighth State to ratify, with the MA Senate voting 34 aye, 5 no. Although the South was almost unanimous in opposition, Harry T. Burn broke a tie in the Tennessee House of Representatives by changing his vote to support ratification, providing the 36th and final state needed to ratify the amendment. Two days later, the 19th Amendment was declared an official part of the United States Constitution.
“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
19th Amendment to the United States Constitution
The 19th Amendment was adopted on August 18, 1920, and on November 2, 1920 Massachusetts women for the first time cast their votes in a federal election.
Sources and further reading:
- MassMoments: Voters Deny Massachusetts Women the Vote
- MassMoments: First National Woman’s Rights Convention Ends in Worcester
- Mass Historical Society: Massachusetts Woman Suffrage Victory Parade : Instructions for Marchers
- The History of Women’s Suffrage; 6 volumes, published in 1922 by the National American Woman Suffrage Association.
- Timeline of Woman Suffrage in Massachusetts
- Massachusetts in the woman suffrage movement : a general, political, legal and legislative history from 1774 to 1881 by Robinson, Harriet Jane Hanson, 1825-1911