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In 1920, the 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution finally gave all women the right to vote. The Chronology of Woman Suffrage Movement Events: A historical timeline, from 1776 through the 19th Amendment in 1920 tells the tale of the long road to suffrage.
Throughout U. S. history, women’s voting rights were granted and then revoked, varying by level of government (municipal through state), location, and time frame. It was this inconsistency which urged the Women’s Political Union in 1911 to publish The Political Status of Women in the United States: A digest of the Laws Concerning Women in the Various States and Territories. (A digitized version is available on Archive.org.)
A wonderful snapshot of the time, this publication details women’s rights regarding general state suffrage, special or local suffrage, and office-holding state by state. In Illinois, for example, women had no state suffrage, but if registered and meeting the residence requirements they could vote in school board elections. Women were excluded from voting in municipal elections by state law. In spite of the restrictive voting laws, however, there were no legal limitations on women’s rights to hold office. The book also cites the applicable statutes and relevant case law, which makes it easier to determine the laws prior and subsequent to 1911.
An understanding of the rights of women will help you know whether or not to pursue voting and related records for your female ancestors prior to 1920.