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After Suffrage

As early as its convention in March 1919, the National American Woman Suffrage Association began to plan a new organization for after the vote was won. The League of Women Voters was designed to be a non-partisan and non-sectarian body with the aims of securing the enfranchisement of women in every state and supporting women’s struggle abroad; removing remaining legal discrimination against women; and upholding democracy. In New Jersey, NJWSA held a victory convention on April 23 and 24, 1920 at the Robert Treat Hotel in Newark, where they formally dissolved and reorganized as the New Jersey League of Women Voters. Officers were elected including Lillian Feickert as treasurer. Some local suffrage groups also dissolved to become leagues of women voters. In New Brunswick, Sarah Atkinson joined the “Non-Partisan League of Women Voters” shortly after its founding. Elizabeth Hill became temporary chairman of the New Brunswick organization, later serving as treasurer and president. In South River, thirty-five women enrolled in its own Non-Partisan League and elected Sarah Selover president. Looking forward to women’s participation in the presidential election of 1920, the state League of Women Voters founded “citizen schools” to prepare new voters.

Lillian Feickert, however, left the league after her term as treasurer ended, choosing instead to become involved in Republican party politics, as did Florence Spearing Randolph and Sarah DeMott Stevens. The Republican Party reached out to women in the state as a potential source of votes. Local Republican clubs in Highland Park and Piscatawaytown in Edison held special meetings for female voters. At a meeting organized by the Dunellen Republican Club, the female voters of Dunellen were “instructed in the art of voting.”

Although the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920 was a great victory, inequities in voting still remained. While African-American women could vote in New Jersey, poll taxes, literacy tests, and other discriminatory tactics prevented most black women from voting in the South. Native Americans did not achieve the right of citizenship and the right to vote until 1924, although in some states they had to wait much longer. Asian-Americans were not granted the right to become citizens and vote until 1952. The passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 barred discriminatory practices like literary tests and poll taxes, but racially motivated disenfranchisement continues. In some respects, winning the vote was only the beginning of a century-long struggle for women’s rights. Soon after the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment, Alice Paul and the National Woman’s Party regrouped to lobby for the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment, which remains unratified. Throughout the twentieth century, women continued to advocate for equal rights and opportunities, such as the ability to serve on juries. The Second Wave feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s resulted in legislation barring discrimination in education and employment among other achievements. Today the struggle continues as women attempt to break the glass ceiling in politics, business, and the professions. Parallels to the suffrage movement can be seen in the symbolically-white dresses worn by Shirley Chisholm, Hillary Clinton, and other women candidates for public office. In the early twentieth-first century, echoes of women’s demand for enfranchisement can be heard in the calls for greater democracy by the busloads of New Brunswick and Rutgers women and men who attended the 2017-2019 Women’s Marches, and most recently by protestors in Black Lives Matter movement demonstrating in the cities and towns of Middlesex County.


Lillian Feickert for Senate

In 1928, Lillian Feickert ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate on a temperance platform. Dubbed the “bone-dry” candidate, she endured accusations that she drank wine while on a trip to Europe. “I distinctly recall an argument Mrs. Feickert had with a waiter in a Paris café,” Mrs. Dickerson (a so-called friend) said, “when he brought her the red wine instead of the white wine she said she had ordered.”

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South River Parade

In this 1920 parade celebrating South River’s 200th anniversary, June Sicknick’s carriage bears the slogan “Votes for Women,” and the moniker “Future President.”

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Carrie Chapman Catt

Wisconsin-born Carrie Clinton Lane Chapman Catt (1859–1947) served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1900 to 1904 and from 1915 to 1920. After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, she founded the League of Women Voters and served as honorary president until her death in 1947. In this photograph, the frontispiece to Victory How Women Won It: A Centennial Symposium 1840–1940, Catt celebrates winning the vote. This limited edition, signed by Catt, was a gift to the president of the New Jersey League of Women Voters.

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New Jersey Colored Republican Women Voters

After the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment, African American and white women formed separate political organizations. Founded in 1922, the New Jersey Colored Republican Women Voters (NJCRWV) was a prominent organization of African American women. The NJCRWV program for the 31st quarterly conference displayed here includes a significant element of scripture-reading and prayer Another important group, the Colored Women’s Republican Club, with Florence Randolph as its first president, established active county and local units, and even had a junior division.

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Shirley Chisholm

In 1968, Shirley Chisholm (1924–2005) became the first Black woman elected to the United States Congress, representing New York's 12th congressional district for seven terms from 1969 to 1983. In 1972, she campaigned unsuccessfully for the United States presidency, but is now remembered as the first African American woman to run. Shirley Chisholm often wore white, referencing the women’s suffrage movement of the early twentieth century, as can be seen in this undated photograph.

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Shirley Chisholm Political Button

This button is from Shirley Chisholm's unsuccessful 1972 campaign for the United States presidency.