I planned on writing this week’s blog and wanted to highlight a new One Million Project book about a woman who made an impact for women in the UK fighting for the right to vote. It seems only fitting to highlight the historic strides women have just achieved in the US one hundred years after Frances Connelly walked into a polling station in the UK and cast her vote in defiance of the existing laws.
In the United States midterm elections this November, many records have been broken by women candidates. The largest numbers on record for women candidates for governor, the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate were set during 2018. Ninety women have been elected to the U.S. House of Representatives which includes some historic firsts.
Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib became the first Muslim women elected to Congress. In Tennessee, Marsha Blackburn became the state’s first female Senator. The first Native American women to be elected to Congress were Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids. And for the first time, South Dakota has a woman as governor, Kristi Noem. Kyrsten Sinema became not only the first female senator from Arizona but also the first open bi-sexual elected, and Ayanna Pressley became the first black Congresswoman from Massachusetts. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest woman to be elected to the Congress at the age of 29.
New Zealand was the first country to allow women to vote in 1893, but seventy-two years after the Women’s Suffrage began, the United States finally allowed women to vote in 1920, after the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. This wasn’t always the case in the US. When the Thirteen Colonies fought for independence, the rights of women to vote in the Colonies began being revoked beginning in New York state in 1777.
The struggle for women’s voting rights, or Women’s suffrage as it was known, had begun. In 1848 the first women’s rights convention was held in Seneca Falls, New York. Elizabeth Cady Stanton proposed Women’s suffrage, and it was agreed to after the group heard Frederick Douglass’ speak.
Scottish author, Sheena Macleod and author Laura Linham have written a book about the first woman, Frances Connelly, to vote in an election in the UK before voting rights for women in that country were granted.
The following description is from the Amazon site for “So, You Say I Can’t Vote!: Frances Connelly: The working-class woman’s route to the vote”
Women were granted the legal right to vote in Parliamentary elections in the UK in 1918. This right, however, extended only to property-owning, renting or university educated women over the age of thirty.
Seven years before this, Frances Connelly, a working woman walked past suffragists protesting outside the polling station in Yeovil, England, to cast her vote in an election. Her vote, and others like it, helped to keep the question in people’s minds — If one woman can vote, why not all?
Frances Connelly’s name is now largely unknown or forgotten. Her story is told here within the context of other women who voted in England before 1918, the struggles and complexities of the times in which these people lived and the contributions made by working-class women to women’s suffrage.