Monday, November 3, 2008

The Widow Josiah Taft Votes

by Felicia Donovan

Did you know that in 1756, a woman by the name of Lydia Chapin Taft was, for the first time, allowed to vote in New England Town Meetings? Her husband, Josiah Taft, was one of the largest landowners in the town of Uxbridge, Massachusetts. When Josiah became ill and died, the town voted to allow the "Widow Josiah Taft," as she was known, to vote by proxy on whether or not to appropriate funds to support the French and Indian Wars. Thus, the "Widow Josiah Taft" set her place in history as the first woman to ever vote in the nation. Lydia Taft's historic vote would precede the 19th Amendment in 1920, by 164 years.

One-hundred and sixty-four years. Think about that for a moment. votes-womenThink about the struggle for women to have a say despite their contributions to the household, their hard labor and trials under often deplorable conditions. Women managed households and budgets, raised children, educated themselves - and often did all of it alone while their husbands were away at war or killed in war - but still, they were not entitled to vote.

Let's not set ourselves back, Ladies. Over two-hundred and fifty years later, we have an opportunity to cast our votes and make sure that women continue to have their rights addressed. This election is more important to women than any other election in our history. No matter what your political leanings, let's never forget that there are many nations that to this day, still do not recognize a woman's right to vote. Let's make the Widow Josiah Taft proud and get out to vote in honor of the millions of women who still don't have that freedom.

One final note - in a small town like my own, voting is akin to a social event during which friends catch up with each other while they wait in line, opinions are proudly rendered, gossip is exchanged, and hunters catch up on how many deer they've bagged thus far this season. Local scout troops sell hot cider, coffee and cookies to satisfy voters as they wait. Civic groups distribute flyers for the upcoming Tree Lighting ceremony downtown to support merchants. It's all quite amicable and pleasant. You know you're a local when the registrar recognizes you and crosses your name off the list without even asking you for it. And for the first time I can ever remember, we'll vote in a new location - a former school - because our Town Hall is not large enough for the anticipated turnout. What are your polling places like?


Keith Raffel said...

Good post, Felicia. What countries besides Saudi Arabia allows men to vote and not women?

Felicia Donovan said...

Good question, Keith and as you mentioned, Saudi Arabia does not recognize a woman's right to vote though Saudi women are supposed to be granted suffrage in the future. We'll see.

In Bhutan, only one vote can be cast per household and traditionally, that is made my the male though they are moving towards a more democratic electoral process.

There are several nations, Brunei and United Arab Emirates, that do not have an electoral system.

In Lebanon, voting is compulsory for men, optional for women, who are required to show proof of an elementary education in order to vote, unlike their male counterparts who have no education requirements.

Vatican City only has Papal conclaves which are conducted among the strictly male Cardinals.

Thank you for asking, Keith. If anyone has any additional information, I'd love to learn more.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Great post on the perfect day. We should all remember what a privilege it is to vote. And this election certainly woke up a lot of voters.

My polling place is in the auditorium of an elementary school 2 blocks from my apartment. Four years ago the line was very long when I got there around 9. Today I'll be there by 7, even though it's raining. But unfortunately, most of us don't know our neighbors, except those who live in our own buidlings, so I'll be taking a book - Spun Tales by you know who.

Mark Combes said...


I too live in a smallish town and the fellow manning the registration table knows me. I worked with way back in college. He ran the laundry room in physical ed. building and I had a work study job with him for four years. Ah, the stories we can tell - much to the chagrin of the folks behind us in line waiting to get their ballots. I hope Bob is there today - I can't remember the name of the pretty girl I worked with during my junior year. Bob will remember....

Cricket McRae said...

Great post, Felicia!

Though certainly not the first to vote in the U.S., women in Wyoming have been voting since 1807, starting an early western suffrage movement that spread throughout the Rocky Mountain region.

I voted early, so the courthouse in my little town was uncrowded and the atmosphere relaxed. Lots of joking around and a very easy process. I admire those I've seen on television who've had to wait hours and hours to get their chance.