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The Maine Story

To the Polls and Beyond for Many, Not All

“There are those who make the contention that no woman should ever dare to aspire to the White House… “Margaret Chase Smith 1964

Once women registered and became eligible to vote, the Democrat and Republican parties each conducted their own school to give practical details of elections and vote counting, as well as introduce the tools of voting, such as the ballot box, checklist, and ballot.

Women attended the schools in large numbers. According to a Portland newspaper report, Mary Stuart, one of the instructors for the Republican school, educated women about that party’s principles and the reasons why all women should adopt them.

Portland Evening Express, September 9, 1920 (Baxter Scrapbooks, Maine State Library Collection)

Lewiston Daily Sun, September 14, 1920

Women went to the polls enthusiastically in 1920. A 1928 study showed that women voting did not significantly change the outcome of elections as some had feared – or hoped.

Native Americans as a whole did not gain citizenship until 1924, and those in Maine were not citizens until 1954, so could not vote. Because of “Jim Crow” practices (state and local laws that enforced racial discrimination) in the South, many African–American men and women were denied voting privileges as well, despite the 19th and earlier amendments.

In August 1920, the legislature passed a law to allow women to run for elected offices in Maine, and so ensured that previous restrictions were eliminated. Similar laws ensured that women could serve on juries.

Mainers in Fort Kent elected the first woman to the legislature in 1922. Since then, Maine has seen growing numbers of women elected to local, state, and federal offices, including, in 2019, Maine’s first woman governor and the highest number of women ever in the Maine Legislature.

Lewiston Evening Journal, October 21, 1921

Maine State Museum