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First Woman to Vote Under the 19th Amendment

Which Woman Cast the First Ballot?

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An often-asked question: who was the first woman in the United States to vote -- the first woman to cast a ballot -- the first female voter?

Because women in New Jersey had the right to vote from 1776-1807, and there were no records kept of what time each voted in the first election there, the name of the first woman in the United States to vote is lost in the mists of history.

Later, other jurisdictions granted women the vote, sometimes for limited purpose (such as Kentucky allowing women to vote in school board elections beginning in 1838).

We have several claimants to being the first woman to vote under the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. As with many forgotten "firsts" of women's history, it's possible that documentation will later be found about others who voted early.

South St. Paul, August 27

One claim to "first woman to vote under the 19th Amendment" comes from South St. Paul, Minnesota. Women had been able to vote in a 1905 special election in the city of South St. Paul; their votes were not counted, but they were recorded: 46 women and 758 men voted. When word came on August 26, 1920, that the 19th Amendment had been signed into law, South St. Paul quickly scheduled a special election the next morning on a water bond bill, and at 5:30 a.m., eighty women voted.

Sources include:

Hannibal, Missouri, August 31

On August 31, 1920, five days after the 19th amendment was signed into law, Hannibal, Missouri, held a special election to fill the seat of an alderman who had resigned.

At 7 a.m., despite pouring rain, Mrs. Marie Ruoff Byrum, wife of Morris Byrum and daughter-in-law of Democratic committeeman Lacy Byrum, cast her ballot in the first ward. She thus became the first woman to vote in the state of Missouri and the first woman to vote in the United States under the 19th, or Suffrage, Amendment.

At 7:01 a.m. in the second ward of Hannibal, Mrs. Walker Harrison cast the second known vote by a woman under the 19th amendment.

Sources include:

  • Ron Brown, WGEM News, based on a news story in the Hannibal Courier-Post, 8/31/20, and a reference in the Missouri Historical Review Volume 29, 1934-35, page 299.
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