Timeline of the Women's Suffrage Movement: 1648-1849 Adams, Blackwell, Bloomer, Brent, Constitution, Convention, Emma, Female, Lily, Lowell, Lyon, Mott, Oberlin, Parade, Prince, Property Rights, Reformer, Stanton, Seneca, Stevens, Taft, Tubman, Union, Voting, White, Willard, Wright, Wollstonecraft

Timeline of the Women's Suffrage Movement: 1648-1849 [The editors of Americans All Maryland ] (January 21, 1648 - ?) Adams, Blackwell, Bloomer, Brent, Constitution, Convention, Emma, Female, Lily, Lowell, Lyon, Mott, Oberlin, Parade, Prince, Property Rights, Reformer, Stanton, Seneca, Stevens, Taft, Tubman, Union, Voting, White, Willard, Wright, Wollstonecraft


The word “suffrage” means “voting as a right rather than a privilege,” and has been in the English language since the Middle Ages. Suffrages originally were prayers. Then the meaning was extended to requests for assistance, then the assistance provided by a supporting vote, and finally the vote itself. Therefore, in 1787 the Constitution used suffrage to mean “an inalienable right to vote.”

And the right to vote was what advocates of women’s equality sought. They used suffrage in the phrase “female suffrage” or simply by itself, with the understanding that suffrage referred to voting rights for half of the adult population that had been excluded. The goal of the suffrage movement was accomplished in 1920 with the 19th Amendment to the Constitution: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged ... on account of sex.” With that, the word suffrage was also retired. Since then, campaigns to extend the vote have simply called for “voting rights.”

The numbers in [bold brackets] identify the images in the photograph collection at the bottom of the page.

1648: First woman to request a vote
     On January 21, as an unmarried woman with property, Margaret Brent, appeared before the Maryland’s colonial assembly and requested two votes. One was for her as a landowner and one because she was serving as the lawyer for Lord Baltimore. She was the first woman in the New World to request the right to vote. She was not given the two votes. [https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/speccol/sc3500/sc3520/002100/002177/html/brochure.html]

1756: First white woman to legally vote in colonial America
     October 30, Lydia Chapin Taft, recent widow of Captain Josiah Taft, of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, was allowed to vote as Josiah’s proxy at a meeting involving the town’s involvement in the French and Indian War. Although women were prohibited to vote, an exception was made because of the size of Josiah’ estate and its taxpayer status.[https://www.newenglandhistoricalsociety.com/lydia-chapin-taft-new-englands-first-woman-voter]

1776: “Remember the ladies”
    In a letter dated March 31, Abigail Adams, [6] wife of John Adams, suggests that he “remember the ladies” in the new code of laws he is writing in the second Congressional Congress of the U.S. [https://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/archive/doc?id=L17760331aa]

1776: The New Jersey constitution is adopted
     On July 2, New Jersey became the fourth American colony to adopt a constitution declaring independence from Great Britain. It was composed in five days and although the delegates considered it a temporary charter, it remained New Jersey's state constitution for sixty-eight years. It allowed all residents who owned property worth 50 English pounds and be a resident for at least a year, without reference to gender or race. Thus, unmarried or widowed women (Black and white) and Black men could vote if they met the other requirements. Married women could not vote because legally they could not own property (all their property reverted to their husbands upon marriage). [https://www.nj.gov/state/archives/docconstitution.html]

1776: Declaration of Independence
     By issuing the Declaration of Independence [9], adopted by the Continental Congress on July 4, the 13 American colonies severed their political connections to Great Britain. The Declaration summarized the colonists' motivations for seeking independence. It also emphasized the need to extend voting rights to women and covered their property rights, protection in marriage and divorce, and the broadening of employment and educational opportunities. [https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/declaration-transcript]

1777: Woman lose the right to vote
      Starting in 1777, laws are passed in the original thirteen states that prohibit women from voting. In 1807, women lost the right to vote in New Jersey; the last state to revoke the vote. [https://www.fawco.org/~fawcoho/images/stories/us_issues/voting/Womansvote.pdf]

1780: Massachusetts State Constitution
     Drafted by John Adams, this is the world’s oldest functioning written constitution. It omits the word “male” as a qualification for elective office but left as a qualification for voting. [https://www.mass.gov/guides/john-adams-the-massachusetts-constitution]

1787: States gain control of voting
     The U.S. Constitutional Convention, held in Independence Hall in Philadelphia, places voting qualifications in the hands of the states, who restricted voting rights to tax-paying white male citizens. Except for New Jersey, women in all states lose their right to vote. [https://www.nps.gov/articles/voting-rights-in-nj-before-the-15th-and-19th.htm]

1789: U.S. Constitution
     The Constitution  is the supreme law of the U. S. Empowered with the sovereign authority of the people by the framers and the consent of the legislatures of the states, it is the source of all government powers, and also provides important limitations on the government that protect the fundamental rights of U.S. [https://www.archives.gov/founding-docs/constitution-transcript]

1789: Essay the Equality of the Sexes
     This 1790 essay by Judith Sargent Stevens Murray was not released until April 1779 when it was published in two parts in different issues of the Massachusetts Magazine. Murray posed the argument of spiritual and intellectual equality between men and women.  It also included a liberal analysis of traditional male superiority in the Bible and criticism of the deprivation of female education of the time. [https://www.womenshistory.org/education-resources/biographies/judith-sargent-murray]

1790: New Jersey suffrage
     The New Jersey grants the vote to "all free inhabitants," including women. The law uses “he” and “she” when referring to voters.

1792: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman
     Complete title: A Vindication of the Rights of Woman: with Strictures on Political and Moral Subjects [12], is created by English writer, moral and political philosopher, and advocate of women’s rights, Mary Wollstonecraft [10]. In her book, she argues that women are not naturally inferior to men but appear to be only because they lack education. She suggests that both men and women should be treated as rational beings and imagines a social order founded on reason. [https://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/wollstonecraft-a-vindication-of-the-rights-of-woman]

1797: New Jersey suffrage
     New Jersey made history by recognizing the right of women to vote, when the Assembly passed a voting law that covered the entire state. New Jersey women voted in large numbers until 1807, when the Assembly passed a law limiting suffrage to free white males.

1807: New Jersey suffrage
     The New Jersey legislature limits the vote to “free, white, male citizens” as a means of favoring the party in power. Women lose the right to vote in New Jersey, the last state to revoke that right. There are rumors of a corrupt election. [https://cawp.rutgers.edu/sites/default/files/resources/femalesuffrageinnj1790_1807.pdf]

1814: First institution of higher education for women
     The Emma Willard School, originally called Troy Female Seminary and often referred to simply as Emma, is an independent university-preparatory day and boarding school for young women, located on Mount Ida in Troy, New York. It was founded by women's rights advocate Emma Willard [8]. Its stated goal is to offer women the same educational opportunities in history, mathematics and science as college-educated men. [https://www.ats.amherst.edu/globalvalley/exhibits/show/pph-papers/troyfemaleseminary]