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The Maine Story

Referendum at Home, War Abroad

“The gateway of political equality is creaking on its hinges.”Deborah Knox Livingston, 1917

In 1917, after more than 50 years of effort, supporters convinced the Maine Legislature to approve a bill to amend the state constitution and allow women to vote. The bill then went to referendum — to be voted on by men.

National suffrage groups had urged Maine not to go forward with the state referendum. Time was short, money tight, and the vital statewide campaign organization weak. Maine went ahead, though. Members of different suffrage groups, who often disagreed, worked together to urge passage.

February 23, 1917 (Carrie Chapman Catt Papers, Bryn Mawr College Special Collections)

Governor Carl E. Milliken, a suffrage supporter, signed the declaration for a woman suffrage referendum to be held on September 10, 1917, surrounded by prominent supporters of the measure.
From left are Mabel B. Cobb, Emma Milliken, Gov. Carl E. Milliken, Deborah Knox Livingston, Florence Brooks Whitehouse, Charles Milliken, Anne Macomber Gannett, Katharine Reed Balentine, and Gertrude Pattangall.
The suffrage bill and impending referendum culminated 63 years of effort by supporters since the question was first raised in the Maine Legislature in 1854.

Maine State Museum