New museum exhibit explores how women originally lost right to vote


PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — As part of Women's History Month, the Museum of the American Revolution is hosting a variety of programs about women during the revolutionary period. One program, underway through April 25, is called "When Women Lost The Vote."

The exhibit takes visitors back to 1801 through 1807 when women in New Jersey, including free African Americans, were able to vote.

Visitor engagement supervisor Megan Bowersox explained that after the Declaration of Independence, each state created their own constitution and in New Jersey, state inhabitants who owned at least $50 dollars worth of property could vote.

"Not a lot of people knew about that. We get a lot of visitors from New Jersey, and I'm also from New Jersey and I had no idea that women had the right to vote during the revolutionary era so it even surprised me," she said.

Evidence of who voted could be found in the voter polls, according to Bowersox.

"The Museum of the American Revolution actually did some groundbreaking research back in 2018 where they actually found roughly nine poll lists of various lists of women whose names were listed in those polls as voting during the revolutionary era from 1801 to 1807," she said.

According to Bowersox, that right was extended to both women and free people of color. "They had that right to vote until about 1807, when that vote was taken away," she said.

Wealth played a big part in women's status and influence. Bowersox says in the 19th century, when women married, their property became property of their husband.

"That really restricted women to being able to vote but also having a social status," she explained.

"You know, if you were a woman who was widowed or single, you actually had it better off as being seen as an independent person because you could actually own your own businesses and actually make your own choices about how you wanted to live your life."

That right didn't begin to return until the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920.

"We as people who live today think that history is linear," she said, "that it follows one straight timeline and what history tells us is that it's not that simple."

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