Tuesday, February 20, 2018

1st vote by Danvers women

Here's a diary entry from a 10-year-old girl in Danvers in 1880:

Mar. 1. staid at home all day      mamma went to vote     cast the first vote buy the women in the town of Danvers

The "mamma" was Lizzie Nichols, my great-grandmother (Mrs. Andrew Nichols, living at Pine Knoll, 98 Preston Street, Danvers). Her maiden name was Elizabeth Perkins Stanley, and she lived from 1836 to 1929.

Was she really able to vote in March 1880?  What was the election?

My cousin Janet, who spent years reading old family diaries and documents as she chronicled family history, commented,

This is a most interesting entry because Lizzie had been actively involved in the vote for women, as well as prohibition, since her early twenties.

I have discussed this entry with the Danvers' archivist and it is not possible to research what she was allowed to vote on. Mr. Trask said it would have been a town election, and most probably a contest that involved the selectmen or school committee. He also said that many of the individual towns decided to allow the women to vote on local issues about that time, but there is nothing in the Danvers records to help me for that date.

Lizzie wouldn't have cared how the women got their foot in the door and it must have been a banner day at Pine Knoll because her husband was a kindred spirit to both of those causes.
The young girl? Her name was May (Mary Eliot Nichols), one of my grandfather's older sisters.  To our family in the 1940's-1950's, she was "Aunt May."  In 1880 she had just started her first diary. Her spelling was irregular, but her observations of life around her were quite clear.

Both Janet and I wish that Lizzie had also written a diary, but we understand that she was entirely too busy raising her large family. By March 1880, she had 7 living children, the youngest barely 19 months old. 

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