Meet Maine Here.

The Maine Story

​“Woman at Augusta”

“Two years ago … we were told that it would be better for our claims [if] we had the state represented by women from every section … to prove that we really want the ballot. We accepted this advice, and gentlemen, we have come.”Lillian Stevens, 1895

From the formation of a statewide suffrage organization in 1873 through about 1900, national and local suffrage proponents became more vocal and organized statewide, and found allies in other groups.

Lewiston Evening Journal, March 7, 1895

The legislature rejected a dozen suffrage efforts during those three decades — often with crowds of women watching or testifying. In 1895, women from every county, some of whom traveled for days by railroad or horse–drawn buggies on snow–covered roads, packed a hearing room in Augusta to plead their cause.

Women sometimes petitioned for municipal — rather than equal — suffrage, because the more limited vote did not require a state constitutional amendment.

Hannah J. Bailey, 1884 (Hannah J. Bailey Papers, Swarthmore College Peace Collection)

In 1890, the two major national suffrage groups put aside past differences and regrouped as the National American Woman Suffrage Association, determined to gain the vote for women. The many new women’s literary, civic improvement, service, and other clubs helped spur more women into political activism as well.

Despite some legislation to expand women’s rights to various jobs, Hannah J. Bailey, president of the Maine Woman Suffrage Association, wrote in 1895, “Many of the laws of our own state are sadly void of the mother element that would make them applicable and just to women and children.”

Women crowded a legislative hearing in February 1895 to argue for the right to vote in municipal elections. The Lewiston Evening Journal covered the event with an entire page of illustrations and a long story by Holman F. Day titled, “Woman at Augusta.”

Lewiston Evening Journal, February 2, 1895

According to Day, people had come from all over Maine to attend the hearing. The center image shows a woman trying to persuade the dominant Republican Party, symbolized by an elephant, to vote in favor of the issue. The smaller illustrations give an idea about the activities, described by Day:

Indescribably picturesque was the assembling of the cohorts at the State House. Evidently the coming woman at the polls is dauntless. Few men could have endured so uncomplainingly the amount of pushing and thrusting to which those women were subjected. After going through that experience the polls should possess no terrors.

Maine State Museum