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North Jersey History Center Online Exhibits

Women's Suffrage in New Jersey

New Jersey was one of the few states whose original constitution granted voting rights to women, albeit only to single and widowed property owners. Since voters only needed to be landowners with one year’s residency, some free African American New Jerseyans cast ballots in early local and national elections, as well as non-citizens, until an 1844 constitutional amendment took the vote from all but white males over twenty-years of age. 

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As a member of the Radical Republicans, New Jersey Senator Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen supported legislation protecting voting rights for African Americans. While arguing the merits of black suffrage in an 1866 session of congress, nonetheless, he stated his belief that it was not the time to restore the vote to women. Rather, Sen. Freylinghuysen argued, “It seems to me as if the God of our race has stamped upon the women of America a milder and gentler nature, which not only makes them shrink from, but disqualifies them from the turmoil of and battle of public life. They have a higher and holier mission…”

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Portrait of Abigail Adams by Benjamin Blythe

Library of Congress

Senator Frelinghuysen’s philosophical position was in direct contrast to Abigail Adams' March 31, 1776 reminder to her husband John Quincy that, “I desire you would remember the ladies, and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors. Do not put such unlimited powers unto the hands of the husbands. Remember all men would be tyrants if they could. If a particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice, or representation…”