A Philadelphia museum is looking back on a lesser-known moment in suffrage history as a prelude to the present.
The Museum of the American Revolution’s new exhibition, “When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776 – 1807,” delves into the period when women and free people of color were legally entitled to vote in Revolutionary New Jersey. It also explores the political realities that led to those rights being stripped away in 1807.
The exhibit, which runs through April 25, 2021, is integrated into the museum’s core galleries and is connected by an audio tour.
The exhibit touts more than 65 original objects — textiles, manuscripts and works of art — that help tell what the museum describes as the forgotten stories of the women who first pioneered the right to vote.
Also included are several recently discovered poll lists uncovered by the museum’s curatorial team. An extensive look at voter records revealed poll lists that feature the names of 163 female voters and four Black male voters.
“Prior to this discovery, little proof of women or people of color voting during this period was known to exist,” Alex McKechnie, the museum’s communications director, said in a press release.
“…I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.”
— Museum of the American Revolution (@AmRevMuseum) September 28, 2020
The exhibit’s public debut Friday comes on the heels of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
The amendment promised women that their right to vote would “not be denied” on account of sex — though in practice, many women of color were excluded. Along with Black women, others who continued to be excluded from the vote included Asian American immigrants and Native Americans. This dissonance may resonate with museum visitors today, as voter suppression continues to disproportionately affect marginalized communities.