Today is a landmark day not only for New Hampshire but for the United States–the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. By a vote of 50-47, Tennessee became the last state needed to ratify the 19th Amendment on 18 August 1920.
Eight days later on 26 August 1920, then-Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby issued a proclamation declaring the 19th Amendment ratified and part of the US Constitution. This amendment protects American women’s right to vote.
That new national amendment declared: ““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. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”
Note that some states (and territories) already recognized women’s suffrage before 1920, i.e. Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New York, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.
New Hampshire’s journey to reach suffrage was a long one, and actually has another date of importance on its journey to ensuring a woman’s right to vote. On 10 September 1919, New Hampshire’s citizens voted in favor of the 19th Amendment, however, it would be almost a year before all of the required 36 states would do the same.
Starting on August 18, 1920 New Hampshire women were encouraged to register to vote and to run for public office [even though the U.S. Constitution only legally allowed them to vote]. Oddly enough, New Hampshire’s constitution continued to include wording that disqualified women from voting for state office. And despite several attempts to change the New Hampshire constitution to allow women to run for public office, they were unable to get the required two-thirds of voters to agree. This did not prevent them from running for various offices, and so they did, despite that the constitution specifically did not allow it. This problem was not remedied until the 1956 Constitutional Convention when Mrs. Carmita A. Murphy of Dover sponsored the Resolution.
The Nashua Telegraph of 21 August 1920 reported: “PROCLAMATION. To all-state, city and town officials in New Hampshire, entrusted with the legal machinery by which voting is affected:As the chief executive of the state I do not deem it inappropriate to urge you to exercise all diligence and care to afford to women, eligible to vote every convenience, instruction, and opportunity for voting at the Primaries on September 7.
In the presence of so authoritative a mandate as the Constitution of the United States, any doubt or question as to the impediment of local laws or practices should be laid aside and the situation construed in favor of and not against enfranchisement.
It is the duty of women to vote, and of all officials not only to permit it but to make it easy and agreeable to do so.” –JOHN H. BARTLETT, GOVERNOR.
—New Hampshire Women Prepared to Vote—
A special dispatch to the Boston Sunday Globe on 29 August 1920 was quite lengthy and it describes the upcoming election, the first that women would be allowed to participate in.
“CONCORD, N.H. Aug 28–Although the primary election in this State is only 10 days away, coming on Tuesday, Sept. 7, it is already assured that a large number of New Hampshire women will complete the process of registration during the coming week and will assist in the nomination of the Republican and Democratic tickets for the November election. It is expected that by November almost as large a percentage of the eligible women as of the men will have their names on the checklists.”
“In addition to his official proclamation announcing the ratification of the suffrage amendment, Gov. John H. Bartlett, who has been one of the most enthusiastic advocates of suffrage in the State, has issued another proclamation directed to the election officials, calling upon them not merely to allow women to register as voters, but to assist them in every way possible to do so. In Nashua Mayor Ledoux has taken similar actions, and nowhere in the State has there occurred any manifestation on the part of supervisors of the checklist against giving women the voting privileges that now are theirs.”
—Club Women Assist—
“Partisan and nonpartisan agencies are equally active3 in working for the registration of as many women as possible during the next 10 days. The New Hampshire Equal Suffrage Association, of which Miss Martha S. Kimball of Portsmouth is the head, and the New Hampshire branch of the National Woman’s Party, whose chairman is Mrs. Lois Warren Shaw of Manchester, are working together to reap the benefits of the battle that both have won; and Mrs. Mary P. Remick of this city, president of the State Federation of Woman’s Clubs, is among those taking the lead in marshaling the women to the polls.”
“Both the Republicans and the Democrats have organizations of women formed in advance of the ratification. Mrs. Dorothy Branch Jackson of this city, daughter of the late Oliver E. Branch of Manchester and wife of Robert Jackson of Concord, both well-known Democratic leaders, is the member from New Hampshire of the Democratic Women’s National Committee. There is less interest in the primary election among Democrats than among Republicans, but before Nov 2 Mrs. Jackson and the members of the State committee intend to enroll as voters a full proportion of the Democratic women of the State.”
“The office of chairman of the Republican Women of the State is just now vacant, through the resignation of Mrs. WIlliam H. Schofield of Peterborough because of the death of her husband; but others connected with the organization are carrying on its work, and this week Mrs. John G.M. Glessner of Bethlehem and Concord has represented the Republican Women of New Hampshire at a National gathering in New York. The Republicans are taking the lead in local organizations of women through the State and in arranging for addresses in these organizations by men and women of recognized political knowledge and experience. In some places, like Meredith and Plymouth, several women have been chosen to places on the executive committee of the men’s Republican Club. In other places, like Milford, the women have organized a committee of their own.”
—Registrars Prepare for Rush—
“So far as is known here there has been no political organization of women outside of the lines of the two old parties anywhere in the State.
In the cities, with the exception of Manchester, the boards of supervisors of the various wards will be in session afternoons and evenings from now until the primary for the purpose of registering new voters, of whom naturally the women will compose the great majority. In the towns also arrangements will be made to give the women full opportunity to get their names on the checklists.”
“A special statute governing registration in the city of Manchester prohibits changes in the checklist after 30 days before an election. At this writing, it has not been determined what the chances are of women in the Queen City voting at the primary. Atty. Gen. Young has “passed the buck” in that connection to City Solicitor Thomas H. Madigan of Manchester and the latter is preparing an opinion in the matter. “
“New Hampshire has a strong and active anti-suffrage association which has succeeded in defeating various attempts in the Legislature and in constitutional conventions to give women the vote in this State in advance of Federal actions. This organization, however, was unable to defeat the ratification of the 19th amendment at the special session of the Legislature called by Gov. Bartlett last summer.”
—Senator Moses Reconiled—
“Suffrage leaders here and elsewhere have claimed that they could see in Vermont, Connecticut, and other States evidence of the effective political work of Senator George H. Moses, the New Hampshire antisuffrage leader, who is seeking renomination in September and the election in November against two prominent suffragists, Food Administrator Huntley N. Spaulding, Republican and Ex-Congressman, Raymond B. Stevens, Democrat. Mr. Moses, however, greeted the ratification of the suffrage amendment with an interview in which he urged all women to register and vote and expressed his belief that they would “act individually and most largely, as regular Republicans.”
“With the exception of Mr. Moses, none of the candidates for high office this Fall has been prominent in opposition to woman suffrage, so that the large amount of curiosity as to “how will the women vote?” centers about his contest for the senatorship Judging by this city, the women who have been opposed to suffrage for their sex will not be less prompt than the most ardent suffragists in exercising their new right. In Ward 6, Concord, for instance, the first woman to register as a voter was Mrs. John H. Brown, wife of the member of Gov. Bartlett’s Council from this district, whose husband has been considered the ablest and most influential of the “anti” advisers after Senator Moses.”
“There is no opportunity now for women to have their named printed as candidates for office upon the official ballot to be used in the primary; but there is nothing to prevent the women for voting for women candidates by writing in their names upon the black spaces provided for that purpose on the ballot. No plants to that effect have been made, so far as it is known here, but the opportunity is open.”
[Editor’s note: and so in this first election year where women could vote, Senator George Higgins Moses mentioned above was again voted to hold his post. Two women were elected in New Hampshire that same year, write-in votes–Dr. Mary L. (Rolfe) Farnum and Jessie Doe. With suffrage now achieved, the NH Suffrage Leagues evolved into the League of Women Voters–an organization that I will write about soon.]