Meet Maine Here.

Suffrage: from Medieval Latin, “suffragium,” meaning support, ballot, vote, right of voting.

Is voting a privilege? A right? Who should vote? Maine’s 1820 constitution answered the final question: males. But starting in 1854 — and at least 28 more times over the next six decades, suffrage proponents asked the Maine Legislature to reconsider the exclusion of women.

Over those years, Maine women gained some economic and social rights and protections, but were denied the vote.

The U.S. Constitution left voting regulation to the states; most barred women. Pro suffrage groups sought to amend the federal, as well as state constitutions.

In the 1830s, ideas about women’s lack of rights grew out of the anti–slavery movement. At the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention in New York, delegates adopted 18 rights resolutions — including suffrage. The movement gained supporters through yearly national women’s rights conventions, public orations around the country, local and state suffrage groups, and activists — women and men, black and white.

Equal rights and suffrage groups split apart after the Civil War over bitter arguments about who deserved the vote first, strategies for success, and the often white and elite focus of some groups.

Nevertheless, discussion — pro and con — about women voting did not cease. In some states and territories, mostly in the west, women voted as early as 1869. Changing social and economic conditions, along with the persistence and determination of generations of suffragist activists ultimately turned the tide.

A federal amendment granting the vote to women went into effect in 1920, the centennial year of Maine statehood.

Maine State Museum