Message from Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon, Esq.:
As you may be aware, this year marks the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. Since my office oversees a large part of the elections process for Monmouth County, I am very excited to launch a recognition program of the 19th Amendment Centennial, to commemorate this historic milestone.
Throughout the year, I encourage you to visit this page on our elections website, www.MonmouthCountyVotes.com, and to follow the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We will continue to update our social media pages with historic flashbacks honoring the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, using the hashtag #WomensVote100Monmouth.
In addition, I invite you to download our centennial materials, including our bookmarks and commemorative booklet, which are available on this page and at our offices. The booklet features a more in-depth historical perspective of the women’s suffrage movement in Monmouth County and additional information about centennial events and programs in our area.
Very truly yours,
Christine Giordano Hanlon, Esq.
Monmouth County Clerk
Ocean Grove was a vibrant center for women’s suffrage and temperance activism. Women in the community were uniquely independent as early as the Civil War; women owned 69 percent of properties in Ocean Grove, and a female doctor practiced medicine there. Sarah Jane Corson Downs, New Jersey’s second state president of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), moved to Ocean Grove in the 1880s and served the organization when it endorsed women’s suffrage in 1887. Some of the most famous suffragists, among them Carrie Chapman Catt and Alice Paul, visited Ocean Grove. Margaret Wilson, President Wilson’s daughter and a prolific singer, performed in the community in 1916 and in 1919.
New Jersey was a popular destination for Quakers as early as the 1670s. The Quakers’ emphasis on the “equality of souls” contributed to an early recognition of women’s value in colonial communities, where women performed in leadership roles and engaged in social activism in regard to abolition, family counseling, and education. Harriet Lafetra, a Hicksite Quaker whose views and practices were more liberal than those of orthodox Quakers, was, according to records, the first known woman to petition the New Jersey state legislature for women’s political rights in 1857. Lafetra was heavily involved in Shrewsbury Quakers’ meetings and is buried at the cemetery located at the Shrewsbury Friends meetinghouse.
New Jersey women rallied around the state to promote women’s suffrage. After several years of political maneuvering, suffrage advocates convinced the state legislature to hold a referendum for a women’s suffrage amendment to the state constitution. The referendum was to be held October 19, 1915. During the year leading up to the referendum, suffragists worked a booth on the Asbury Park Boardwalk to rally support for the passage of the referendum. They also advertised a pro-suffrage event that was to take place on August 26, 1914 at the Asbury Casino, featuring the prominent Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, president of the National American Women Suffrage Association. Unfortunately, the referendum was defeated, despite their best efforts, and the suffragists turned instead to pursuing a federal women’s suffrage amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
Sarah Jane Corson Downs, Ocean Grove
Downs became president of the New Jersey Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1881. Audiences listened with rapt attention when Sarah Downs, a social reformer with a booming voice and daunting appearance, condemned alcohol as “the enemy.” Despite her tough demeanor, “Mother Downs” was kind and loving.
Sarah was born in 1822 to an old Philadelphia family, members of the Dutch Reformed Church. When she was ﬁve, her father died and, in the 1830s, her widowed mother moved the family to New Jersey, initially in Pennington. Sarah experienced “a conversion” at seventeen and became an Evangelical Methodist. While teaching school in New Egypt, she met a widower, Methodist circuit minister Rev. Charles S. Downs. After they married in 1850, Sarah left teaching and cared for their children. When Rev. Downs retired for health reasons, the family relocated to Tuckerton. To make ends meet, Sarah resumed teaching and wrote newspaper articles. After Rev. Downs died in 1870, she raised funds for a new church and became increasingly interested in women’s welfare.
In the mid-1870s, Downs moved to Ocean Grove, the dry Methodist seaside town that would become known for its women activists and entrepreneurs. In 1882, she purchased a house lease at 106 Mount Tabor Way for $490. During her Ocean Grove years, Downs signiﬁcantly increased the WCTU membership. Loyal to Frances Willard, national WCTU president, Downs supported suffrage as “a means for
women to better protect their homes and children” and to help achieve the prohibition of alcohol.
After a brief illness, Downs died in 1891. She was working on WCTU affairs even during her final hours.
Excerpt of Sarah Jane Corson Downs by Karen L. Schnitzspahn from the Monmouth County Archives “Four Centuries of Monmouth County Women” Exhibit Catalog.
Achsah Dunham, born in 1824, was elected to the Neptune Township School Board in 1888 after moving to Ocean Grove with her husband in 1882. After the New Jersey legislature initially gave women the right to vote in local school board elections, the legislation was invalidated by the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1894 in the case of Allison v. Blake. Full suffrage for women in New Jersey became a reality when the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratiﬁed in August of 1920. Dunham was an auxiliary to the National Women’s Suffrage Association (Courtesy Historical Society of Ocean Grove).
Excerpt of Achsah Cannon Dunham by Gary D. Saretzky from the Monmouth County Archives “Four Centuries of Monmouth County Women” Exhibit Catalog.
Born in 1898, Esther Hymer began ﬁghting for women’s rights from the time she was a student at University of Wisconsin-Madison where she marched for women’s suffrage. Throughout
her life, Esther was dedicated to improving the status of women and served on many boards and commissions relating to her cause, including the United Nation’s Commission on the Status of Women. Esther lived in Shrewsbury from 1941 until her death at the age of 103 in 2001.
Excerpt of Esther Hymer by Gary D. Saretzky from the Monmouth County Archives “Four Centuries of Monmouth County Women” Exhibit Catalog.
Mary Sutton, born in 1866, was the second woman attorney in Monmouth County and the ﬁrst to have a signiﬁcant law practice. In the 1914 publication of the Woman’s Who’s Who of America, editor John William Leonard listed her as a prominent woman who “favors women’s suffrage.”
Excerpt of Mary Wooster Sutton by Randall Gabrielan from the Monmouth County Archives “Four Centuries of Monmouth County Women” Exhibit Catalog.
Harriet Lafetra, a quaker from Shrewsbury was, according to records, the ﬁrst known woman to petition the New Jersey State Legislature for women’s political rights in 1857. Lafetra was heavily involved in Shrewsbury Quakers’ meetings and is buried at the cemetery located at the Shrewsbury Friends meetinghouse.
Excerpt of Harriet Lafetra by Melissa Ziobro from the Monmouth County Archives “Four Centuries of Monmouth County Women” Exhibit Catalog.
Three generations of women’s suffrage activists called Keyport home. Therese Walling Seabrook lived on West Front Street and offered fervent support for both temperance and women’s suffrage. Seabrook joined other suffragists at a meeting of the New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee in 1884 to advocate for a resolution for women’s suffrage. She was the Honorary President of the Monmouth County Suffrage Society and a delegate to the National Women’s Suffrage Association.
Seabrook’s daughter, Annie Seabrook Conover, was an active Women’s Christian Temperance Union member in the group’s Monmouth County chapter. Conover also served as the ﬁ rst president of the Keyport Literary Club, which joined the New Jersey and the State Federation of Women’s Clubs. Her daughter, Vera Conover, was a genealogist and served as Keyport Borough’s historian. She preserved and recorded local history pertaining to the women’s suffrage movement. The Monmouth County Historical Association possesses much of her written work.
Excerpt of the Seabrook Women by Mary Hussey from the Monmouth County Archives “Four Centuries of Monmouth County Women” Exhibit Catalog.
The 1848 Seneca Falls Convention marked the formal beginning of the American women’s suffrage movement. Notable suffragists, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, demanded legal recognition of women’s political rights and sought to educate the public about women’s suffrage. An outgrowth of the abolitionist movement, women’s suffrage efforts recognized each individual’s political liberty regardless of gender. The movement coincided with other reforms in a period of American history known as the Progressive Era, which featured public and legislative initiatives to protect laborers, ensure children’s rights, improve public education, mandate temperance, and advance consumer protection.
Multiple organizations formed to support women’s suffrage. Prominent leaders included Carrie Chapman Catt, who led the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA), and Alice Paul, a New Jersey native, who headed the National Woman’s Party (NWP). Numerous demonstrations, which occasionally involved arrests and physical harm, and lobbying efforts occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. Finally, with support from President Woodrow Wilson, Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment on June 4, 1919. New Jersey ratified the Nineteenth Amendment on February 9, 1920 and the States ratified the amendment on August 18, 1920. The Nineteenth Amendment prevents the federal government and the states from denying any individual the right to vote on the basis of sex, ultimately extending the right to vote to women and marking the success of a sustained movement that lasted more than seven decades.
Timeline of Key Events
1848, July 19-20: Seneca Falls Convention held in New York
1857: Harriet Lafetra petitions New Jersey state legislature to support women’s suffrage
1869: Wyoming becomes first territory to grant women voting rights
1872, November 5: Susan B. Anthony illegally votes in presidential election; later arrested
1873, December 23: Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) founded
1878: Woman Suffrage Amendment proposed to Congress
1884: Therese Walling Seabrook meets with New Jersey Assembly Judiciary Committee
1887: WTCU’s New Jersey chapter endorses women’s suffrage
1890, February 18: National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) founded
1913, March 3: Suffragists parade on Pennsylvania Avenue
1916, November 7: First congresswoman, Jeannette Rankin, elected
1918, January 9: President Wilson announces support for women’s suffrage
1919, May 21: House passes Nineteenth Amendment
1919, June 4: Senate passes Nineteenth Amendment
1920, February 9: New Jersey ratifies the Nineteenth Amendment
1920, August 18: States ratify Nineteenth Amendment
1920, August 26: Nineteenth Amendment is officially signed into law
Clerk Hanlon has created bookmarks and a commemorative booklet honoring the 19th Amendment Centennial.
Available for download or in-person at our offices:
- Bookmark #1: Local History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement
- Bookmark #2: Suffrage Movement Highlight and Did You Know? Facts
- Commemorative Booklet: Edition II: Features a more in-depth historical perspective of the women’s suffrage movement in Monmouth County, our women elected officials in Monmouth County, and additional information about Centennial events and programs in our area.
In commemoration of the 100th Anniversary of New Jersey ratifying the 19th Amendment on February 9, 1920, Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon hosted a “Pink Tea” on February 6, 2020 at the historic Woman’s Club of Matawan. The event was an opportunity for women elected ofﬁcials and election ofﬁcials in Monmouth County, as well as members of the Monmouth County League of Women Voters chapters and the Woman’s Club of Matawan to gather, meet, and collectively recognize the centennial of the women’s suffrage movement.
New Jersey Secretary of State Tahesha Way, who is the top election ofﬁcial in the State of New Jersey and oversees the State Division of Elections, served as the keynote speaker and discussed the importance of the historic milestone and the State’s “NJ Women Vote” 19th Amendment Centennial Organization.
Peggy Dellinger, President of the League of Women Voters’ Southern Monmouth Chapter, as well as a trustee and the exhibit chair for the Township of Ocean Historical Museum, spoke about her “Votes for Women: New Jersey and Beyond” museum exhibit and provided a historical overview of the women’s suffrage movement. Also, Jesse Burns, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of New Jersey informed about the national organization’s 100th anniversary.
Click here to view our Flickr album of photos from the Pink Tea event.
Watch our recap video of the event, produced by the Monmouth County Public Information Office:
On Saturday, October 12, 2019, Clerk Hanlon and the Monmouth County Archives Division of the County Clerk’s Ofﬁce hosted the 24th Annual Monmouth County Archives and History Day at the Monmouth County Library Headquarters in Manalapan.
During the event, which celebrates local history, more than 60 local and state history organizations put up displays relating to New Jersey history and their organizations. The event’s theme focused on “Four Centuries of Monmouth County Women,” to which there was an accompanying exhibit catalog.
The keynote speaker was actress Michele LaRue who presented an anti-suffrage satire titled “Someone Must Wash the Dishes.” During the event, Clerk Hanlon hosted a panel discussion featuring volunteers from the Monmouth County Historical Association who portrayed ﬁve of the women featured in our catalog, Margaret Haskell, Caroline Gallup Reed, Molly Pitcher, Geraldine Thompson, and Dorothy Hill. Thank you to our performers for bringing the history and time period of these prominent Monmouth County women to life.
Clerk Hanlon and the Archives Division also hosted Archives Day Seminars the following week on October 16, 2019, which included actress and storyteller Carol Smith Levin, who performed as suffragette Lillian Feickert. Levin’s performance showcased the career of Feickert who served as the New Jersey Women Suffrage Association’s president between 1912 and 1920. Levin’s presentation also covered the trajectory of New Jersey women’s involvement in the national suffrage movement.
Click here to view our Flickr album of photos from the County Clerk’s 2019 Archives and History Day.
At the County Clerk’s Annual Archives and History Day on Saturday, October 14, 2019, Clerk Hanlon honored the First, Second, and Third Place Winners of the Middle School 19th Amendment Centennial Essay Contest, sponsored by the Monmouth County Clerk’s Office.
In recognition of the 100th Anniversary of the 19th Amendment, seventh and eighth grade students in Monmouth County were asked to highlight an activist who had a connection to Monmouth County or New Jersey and explain the importance of his or her role to the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
Clerk Hanlon was extremely impressed by the numerous entries we received from students across Monmouth County. Congratulations to our winners:
First Place: Isabelle Chapman
Eighth Grader at Maple Place Middle School, Oceanport
Teacher: Mrs. Cathy Kornek
“Alice Paul’s Fight for Suffrage”
Click here to read her First Place essay.
Second Place: Ayush Bobra
Eighth Grader at Marlboro Memorial Middle School
Teacher: Mrs. Amanda Hendrickson
“Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Push for Women’s Rights”
Click here to read his Second Place essay.
Third Place: Jillian Basile (pictured left)
Eighth Grader at Saint Jerome School, West Long Branch
Teacher: Mrs. Madeline Kerns
“The Fight for Women’s Rights” about Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony
Click here to read her Third Place essay.
Third Place: Amanda Sun (pictured right)
Eighth Grader at Marlboro Memorial Middle School
Teacher: Mrs. Amanda Hendrickson
“Alice Paul: The Journey of a Leader”
Click here to read her Third Place essay.
In 2019, the Monmouth County Archives, a Division of the Office of Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon produced an exhibit and accompanying catalog titled “New Jersey in Focus: Women of Monmouth County,” to commemorate the approaching 19th Amendment Centennial in 2020.
“Women of Monmouth County” was created by the following:
Monmouth County Archivist Gary D. Saretzky, Curator and Editor
Eugene Osovitz, Preparer of the Exhibit
With major contributions by
Randall Gabrielan, Mary Hussey
George Joynson, Karen L. Schnitzspahn, and Melissa Ziobro
The exhibit and booklet highlight 50 women from Monmouth County who were path-breaking for their gender and success in their various careers.
The “Four Centuries of Monmouth County Women” Exhibit Catalog is available online at MonmouthCountyClerk.com/Archives and in paper copy at the Monmouth County Archives Division by calling 732-308-3771.
Alice Paul Institute’s “Alice Paul: In Pursuit of Ordinary Equality”
Ongoing, Tuesday – Friday @ 12 P.M. – 4 P.M.
128 Hooten Road, Mount Laurel, NJ
Alice Paul Institute’s Second Saturday Tours @ Paulsdale
Monthly on the Second Saturday @ 12 P.M.
128 Hooten Road, Mount Laurel, NJ
Township of Ocean Historical Museum’s “Votes for Women: New Jersey and Beyond” Exhibit
Through June of 2020
Exhibit is available online by clicking here, since the museum is closed to the public through May 1, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
703 Deal Road, Ocean Township, NJ
Monmouth County to Honor 19th Amendment Centennial
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Stay tuned for more details.
Vision 2020’s “Toast to Tenacity”
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
Independence Mall, Philadelphia, PA with regional celebrations