Sunday, November 4, 2018

Remembering the Women Who Voted First (November 2, 1920)

Climbing My Family Tree: Sample Ballot for November 2, 1920 printed in the Youngstown  Ohio Vindicator on November 1, 1920
Sample Ballot for November 2, 1920
printed in the Youngstown  Ohio Vindicator on November 1, 1920
Click to make bigger


I knew that white women first got the right to vote, across the U.S.A., in 1920. But then, maybe because of the genealogy, I got to wondering what that meant in my family. Who were the first women in my family who could vote?

So I checked (click on their names to be taken to their life story posts).

In Lapeer and Sanilac counties, Michigan, Election Day 1920 dawned cold and clear, but with the threat of the first snowstorm of the year. According to local newspapers, in the morning hours to noon, women showed up to vote in double the numbers of the men.

On my Dad’s side, three generations of women were alive and eligible to vote for the first time.  I was astonished to realize that my grandma was one of them. The others died before I was born and I didn’t know them.

On Election Day, November 2, 1920, the first election in which women could legally vote nationwide:

My grandma, Anna Bennett Henn was 22 (1898-1977). She lived at home with her parents in Maple Valley, Michigan.

My great-grandma, Anna Gregor Bennett was 62 (1858-1928). She lived in Maple Valley, Michigan with her husband and four of their seven children: William (31), Anna (22), Margaret (20) and Thomas (14).

My great-grandma, Myrtie Wilcox Henn was 40 (1879-1953). She had eight children and lived in Burnside, Michigan with her husband.

My 2nd-great-grandma, Mary Jane Currier Wilcox was 77 (1843-1937). She lived in Brown City, Michigan, with her husband and her 17-year-old grandson.

My 2nd-great-grandma, Elizabeth O’Brien Henn was 67 (1853-1927). She was a widow and lived in Burnside, Michigan, with her son Floyd's family. 


Climbing My Family Tree: Stamp Commemorating the 19th Amendment
Stamp Commemorating the 19th Amendment


In Hancock County, Ohio, Election Day 1920 was cold and very rainy. Despite this, women were lined up outside the polls in many cities in Ohio at the start of the day for the opportunity to vote for the first time. According to Ohio newspaper accounts, women were asked to vote between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM in many localities (some limited them to 9:00 AM to noon) so as to not tie up the polls when the men were getting off work and coming to vote. In Ohio, the total number of women voters outnumbered the total of men voters in many precincts on that day.

On my Mom’s side, only two generations of women were alive to witness the first time women were allowed to vote.

On Election Day, November 2, 1920:

My great-grandma, Fanny Hartman Hart Erwin was 48 (1872-1954). She was working as a live-in housekeeper for a man and his father in Pleasant, Ohio. Her two youngest daughters, one of whom was my grandmother, lived in the household with her and were listed as boarders on the census.  My grandmother, Mabel Erwin Snyder, was 10 on Election Day, which was too young to vote but she witnessed history being made. 

My great-grandma, Pearl Pauline Bailey Snyder was 29 (1891-1978). She lived with her husband and five children in Findlay, Ohio.


Warren Harding (Pres.) and Calvin Coolidge (VP) won that presidential election.

It’s hard to believe that I knew two women who saw that day. I have honored the memory of those women who fought for my right to vote by voting in every election since I first became eligible to vote.



This Tuesday, November 6, 2018, go 


15 comments:

  1. Wow! What a great way to honor your female ancestors and remind us all to exercise this hard-earned right to VOTE!

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    1. Thank you, Marian! It started out as a Facebook post to family, with just the info on the women and their ages on that day. Cousins encouraged me to turn it into a blog post, so I started reading Michigan & Ohio newspapers from that week. It was very interesting reading!

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  2. I tried locating early voting registers in the towns where my family lived only to discover that the law didn't require saving them and most were destroyed. (:

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    1. Yeah, I haven't had much luck finding them either. Occasionally their votes get memorialized in a County History book, or mentioned in a newspaper, but that's it.

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  3. I really enjoyed this post! In addition to honoring those women in our families who first took advantage of the right to vote, it serves to remind their descendents (us!) not to take this right for granted. Again, great post!

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    1. Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

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  4. What an original topic! I have long been interested in the suffragettes and have written on my blog about the movementin my own area of the Scottish Borders. But I have never considered the Impact of gaining the vote on my own ancestors. Thank you for the idea.

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    1. Thank you, Sue! I’m fascinated by the suffragettes too. I keep looking for evidence that someone in my family participated in the movement but haven’t found it yet. Knowing what I’ve heard of them, I find it hard to believe that they didn’t participate somehow— maybe someday I’ll find it.

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  5. Great Topic! Really enjoyed this post. My Grandmothers were both alive. My Paternal Grandmother's Mom passed before election day in 1920. Her family was living in Marshall Co TN. My Maternal Grandmother's Mom was living in Van Buren Co TN with her husband and their 5 Children(my MGM had already married & lived in Huntsville, AL)

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    1. Thank you, Marie, and thank you for sharing about your own family. Your family comes from a beautiful area of the country. Tennessee is gorgeous! I’ve relatives who live there now, though further east than yours were.

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  6. I wrote about this very same thing two years ago. Of the six women in my family who were alive to vote that first time, I knew two of them, my grandmothers. Here's my post about that important day. http://www.michiganfamilytrails.com/2016/11/did-your-grandmother-vote-how-old-were.html

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    1. I know. I remember reading it. Your post inspired this one, in general. But I’ll happily re- read it! Thanks, Diane!

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  7. I love that you remember the ladies in this post! Even though they "had" the vote, it must have been so difficult for those women who were first to vote.

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    1. Thank you for stopping by, and I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I remember my grandma Henn as very shy. I think it might have been difficult for her but also very exciting. The others had persevered though hard times. I like to think they had a lot of backbone and were more excited by the possibilities than anything else.

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  8. What a neat idea to look up who in our own families voted in the first elections. Thank you for this post. It has me thinking, and I think I will share this tip soon.

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