American women officially got the vote in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. But some single women in New Jersey were casting their votes as early as 1776 because the state’s first constitution extended suffrage to “free inhabitants of [the] State” who were over the age of majority, possessed more than 50 pounds of wealth, and had lived in New Jersey for more than six months. The progressive law lasted for almost 30 years -- until the state constitution was “re-interpreted” in 1807, allowing only “adult white male taxpaying citizens” to cast a ballot.
There must be some mistake:
- New Jersey was unique in permitting women to vote. The other 12 original states all had constitutions specifically stating that voters had to be male.
- Married women didn't own property in their own names and were assumed to be represented by their husbands' votes, so, by and large, only well-off single women were able to vote in 18th-century New Jersey.
- “This placed suffrage on a clear taxpaying basis, creating a very broad franchise for white men but disenfranchising women and African Americans,” writes historian Donald Ratcliffe.