New York City women’s march, October 23 ,1915. Photo: Library of Congress.
Just as the rain shouldn’t be an excuse not to vote today, it’s hard to imagine that being female would be a reason to skip the polls, though we know that until a hundred years ago today, it was. Exactly a century ago, Catherine Ann Smith was among the first women to vote in the state of New York, as the New York Times reminds us. Ms. Smith joined Mary Waver at the front of the line, both cast their ballots in the early hours of November 5th, 1918.
A 1915 pro-women’s suffrage postcard responds to suggestions that voting will make a woman masculine.
Ms. Smith had a family connection to the voting booth on that day: Her husband, Alfred E. Smith, would be elected governor by the close of the day–enough reason to show up a half hour before the polls opened at 5:30 A.M. at Public School 1 at Oliver and Henry Streets in Lower Manhattan. The candidate’s mother, Katherine, waited until after breakfast to cast a vote for her son in Brooklyn.
The aforementioned early birds weren’t the only women flocking to the polls; suffragettes were eager to exercise their hard-won right to determine the course of American democracy. Mary Garrett Hay remarked after voting on Manhattan’s West Side, “It seemed as natural as breathing,” she said, “and I felt as though I had always voted.”
- How the Men’s League for Women’s Suffrage helped win voting rights in New York
- Brownstones and ballot boxes: The fight for women’s suffrage in Brooklyn
- MAP: Explore the women’s suffrage movement through the lens of NYC landmarks
- Women’s History Month began in New York in 1909 to honor the city’s garment workers’ strike