For many years, in the United States, women were not allowed to vote. Of course, many women didn’t have much of a formal education either. They might have gone to the sixth grade or something, but then it was thought that they should be at home with their mothers, learning to run a household, cook, and raise children. It was thought that political matters should be left to the men, “who understood these things.” I don’t believe that the men were being intentionally chauvinistic, but it was simply the way things were in that day and age.
Lydia Taft became the first legal woman voter in colonial America in 1756. Under British rule in the Massachusetts Colony, in the New England town meeting in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, Taft voted on at least three occasions. The British law at the time stated that “unmarried white women who owned property could vote in New Jersey.” The law was in place from 1776 to 1807. After 1807, things pretty much went back to the “only men can possibly understand politics, sweetie” mentality, and women couldn’t vote until 1869, when Wyoming granted women the right to vote. Utah followed in 1870. Prior to the 19th Amendment, individual states made their own decisions on women’s suffrage, according to Time magazine. In fact, most states allowed women to vote in at least some elections prior to 1920, with only eight of 48 states completely disenfranchising women. Still, even when they weren’t allowed to vote, nothing prohibited women from running for office in many cases…and they often did. Thousands of women ran for office prior to 1920 and many of them won and served long before they were legally allowed to vote.
As far as presidents go, it hit me that while many wives, mothers, sisters, and daughters had a husband, son, brother, or father who was president, the first 31 of those presidents were elected without the votes of the women in their families. In fact, Franklin D Roosevelt’s mother was the first mom who got to cast a vote for her son as president. How strange that must have felt. I’m sure that anyone who finds themselves related to the President of the United States, might find life a little bit surreal, but that first ability to vote for that family member…wow!! Of course, the whole idea of being able to legally vote after fighting for the privilege so hard must have been surreal in itself…whether you know the candidate personally or not.