Blog (8) We all know that American women were granted the right to vote when the 19th amendment was ratified in August of 1920.  But did you know that women and free people of color were legally able to vote for years in New Jersey a century earlier?  

The newest groundbreaking exhibition at the Museum of the American Revolution will explore the history of America’s first women voters and examine the reasons why this right was eventually stripped away from them nearly 30 years later.  Visitors to historic Philadelphia and the popular Museum of the American Revolution won’t want to miss this new exhibition opening soon.

When Women Lost the Vote: A Revolutionary Story, 1776 – 1807 is the highly anticipated new exhibition opening at the Musuem of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.  

Key artifacts in the exhibition include:

  • Abner Weston’s Journal: A hand-written diary of Massachusetts Revolutionary War corporal Abner Weston (1760-1830), which revealed previously unknown details about Deborah Sampson

  • Deborah Sampson’s Wedding Dress: The wedding gown (1760-1790) of now-famous female soldier Deborah Sampson, who disguised herself as a man to fight in the Revolutionary War, on loan from Historic New England

  • Women at the Polls in New Jersey in the Good Old Times: A hand-colored version of an 1880 engraving in Harper’s Weekly drawn by Howard Pyle

  • Newly Discovered Poll Lists: Several poll lists featuring the names of women voters from the period will be on display, including a list from the New Jersey State Archives that features the names of 46 women voters

  • “Remember the Ladies” Letter: Abigail Adams’ original March 31, 1776 letter to her husband John Adams, in which she urged him to “Remember the Ladies,” on loan to the Museum from the Massachusetts Historical Society, marking what is believed to be its first return to Philadelphia since John Adams originally received it in 1776

  • Ballot Box circa 1811: A ballot box from Deptford Township, New Jersey, on loan from the Gloucester County Historical Society

The exhibit will also include additional programming, like “two original first-person theatrical performances that dramatize the different experiences and perspectives of two women of the period.” 

“We are reconstructing the long-forgotten stories of America’s first women voters, and will explore how the next generation of suffragists stood on the shoulders of the women who first pioneered the vote,” explains Dr. Marcela Micucci, Curatorial Fellow in Women’s History for the Museum.

The 5,000 square-foot exhibition, developed by the Museum of the American Revolution’s in-house exhibit team, will be located in the Museum’s first-floor Patriots Gallery. Access to view When Women Lost the Vote is included in regular Museum admission.  

The exhibition will open in Fall 2020 and run through Spring 2021.

Be sure to also check out our licensed tour guide’s advice for taking a school trip to Philadelphia and the museum in our SCHOOL TRIP SPOTLIGHT: Museum of the American Revolution.

Originally published February, 2020, updated August, 2020