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The Maine Story

​Constitutions, Abolition, and Women’s Rights

“The right is ours. Have it we must. Use it we will.”Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1848

Maine State Archives Collection

Maine’s Constitution, patterned after that of Massachusetts, used the word “male” to describe who could vote for governor, senators, and representatives. Because of that language, women would be able to vote for those officials only if there were a constitutional amendment.

The document also denied voting rights to “Indians not taxed” – meaning “tribal” Indians or those who lived on reservations and therefore were not considered U.S. citizens.

The U.S. Constitution left regulation of voting to the states – until after the Civil War.

The second section of the 14th amendment, adopted in 1868, inserted “male” into the U.S. Constitution for the first time. It effectively gave voting rights to black men – and gave the federal government control over some aspects of voting.

To make clear what the 14th Amendment hinted at, the 15th amendment, adopted in 1870, clearly stated that the right to vote cannot be denied on the basis of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. This guarantee of voting rights to black men, instead of to all people, caused division and controversy among supporters of voting rights for women.

Fifteenth Amendment, 1870; (Library of Congress)
At the center of this lithograph is a view showing the celebration of the 15th amendment in
Baltimore on May 19, 1870. Portraits of individuals important to African-American rights surround the
parade scene, along with vignettes that represent new hope for the freedom of Black men.

Maine State Museum