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Forgotten Fight

The Struggle for Voting Rights In Maryland
Voting impact year

Since the colonial era, Marylanders have fought to exercise the right to vote. They faced racism, sexism, and targeted legislation. They protested, marched, and were thrown in jail.  Despite their fiery passion, voter turnout today suggests that their fight has been largely forgotten. In this interactive exhibition, you are assigned the voter ID of a real Marylander from history. Follow the timeline and see how your right to vote is withheld, granted, and taken away. Your identity will be revealed at the end of the timeline. 

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1648
2020

1648

English immigrant Margaret Brent (c. 1601- c. 1671), was appointed the executrix of the estate of Leonard Calvert (1606-1647), Governor […]

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1792

Thomas Brown (    -1816), an African American Veteran of the American Revolution, horse doctor, and property owner, campaigned for […]

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1802

The Maryland General Assembly declares that only “free white males” can vote, barring any prior voting by free black men. 

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1818

Jewish Baltimoreans petition the Maryland General Assembly to allow Jewish people to hold public office. Over the next several years, […]

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Voting impact year

1820

Law does not allow women to vote.

Your Voting Status

Voting Denied

1826

After many attempts, the “Jew Bill” is passed by the Maryland General Assembly. Maryland is the last state to remove […]

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1848

The first woman’s rights convention is held on July 19–20 in Seneca Falls, New York. Around 300 people attend, including […]

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Forest Leaves

This book of poetry was written by suffragist, abolitionist, and teacher Frances Ellen Watkins Harper. Harper was born free in […]

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Americans Shall Rule America

Municipal and national elections in Maryland see a rise in the prominence of the Know-Nothing Party. Violence, particularly against German […]

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Armchair

Bembe & Kimmel  New York 1857 Oak, leather, brass Maryland Center for History and Culture, Gift of Mrs. B. Crawford […]

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1860

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) elected President.

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1864

November 8: President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) is reelected.

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1864

November 1: Governor Augustus W. Bradford (1806-1881) signs a new state constitution into law, which abolishes slavery in the state […]

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“A Friendly Word to Maryland”

Frederick Douglass (c. 1817-1895), in his first return to Maryland since escaping slavery in 1838, gave a speech at the […]

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1866

The U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1866 is enacted, being the first Federal law to define citizenship and affirm equal […]

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1866

Maryland native, educator, and abolitionist Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825–1911) speaks at the inaugural meeting of the American Equal Rights […]

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“The constitutional amendment!”

In 1866, a number of political posters like this one were published by supporters of Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate Hiester […]

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1867–1874

Founded by Lavinia Dundore (1904–1921), the Maryland Equal Rights Association is established as Maryland’s first women’s suffrage organization, seeking universal […]

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1867

New Maryland state constitution changes rules for representation, further disenfranchising African American voters and giving rise to former Confederates and […]

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Campaign Ribbon

Horandt & Sons Co.  Baltimore, Maryland c.1868 Silk Maryland Center for History and Culture, 1968.56.1 During his tenure as U.S. […]

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Voting impact year

1870

Law does not allow women to vote.

Your Voting Status

Voting Denied

Baltimore’s African Americans Celebrate the Fifteenth Amendment

William M. Chase (1817–1901) Stereoview Baltimore, Maryland 1870 Maryland Center for History and Culture, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Stereoview Collection, […]

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The 15th Amendment

The 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits states from disenfranchising voters “on account of race, color, or previous condition […]

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“‘Move on!’ Has the Native American no rights that the naturalized American is bound to respect?”

Thomas Nast New York: Harper’s weekly, v. 15, no. 747 (1871 April 22), p. 361 Library of Congress, Prints & […]

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1872

Days before the Republican National Convention, Delegate Stevenson Archer (1827-1898) gives the speech: “Woman Suffrage not to be tolerated, although […]

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1873

William H. Butler (c.1829–1892), a carpenter, former slave, and wealthy Annapolis land owner, becomes the first African American elected to […]

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“The Color Line is Broken”

Thomas Nast New York, New York: Harper’s Weekly, v. 21, (1877 December 8), p. 972. Library of Congress, Prints & […]

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“The Color Line Still Exists- In This Case”

Unknown artist New York: Harper’s Weekly, 1879 Wikimedia Commons This cartoon shows a white, illiterate man attempting to write rules […]

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1889

Caroline Hallowell Miller (1831–1905), of Sandy Spring, organizes her local Quaker community in Montgomery County to form the Maryland Woman […]

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1890

Harry Sythe Cummings (1866–1917) is the first African American elected to the Baltimore City Council. He would later speak at […]

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1894

Baltimore Suffrage Club is organized and quickly joins forces with the Maryland Woman Suffrage Association in Sandy Spring for greater […]

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1895

Dr. J. Marcus Cargill (1850–1915) is elected to the Baltimore City Council, the second African American to hold that position.

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1898

Progressive reformers in the legislature require elections to employ a new “Australian” ballot, which lists all candidates rather than the […]

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Campaign Button

Torsch & Lee Co. Baltimore, Maryland  c.1899 or 1903 Metal, paper, celluloid Maryland Center for History and Culture, Gift of […]

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Political Badge

Metal, paper Maryland Center for History and Culture, 1973.11.327 c

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Political Button

National Woman Suffrage Club, Inc.  c.1900–1920 Maryland Center for History and Culture, 1973.11.644 a

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1901

General Assembly members, particularly those from the old Democrat machine who were not happy with gains by progressives and reformers, […]

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1902-1903

Etta Haynie Maddox (1860–1933) and Emilie A. Doetsch (1882–1969), two suffrage advocates, pass the Maryland bar exam and become the […]

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1903–1905

John Prentice Poe (1836–1909), dean of the University of Maryland School of Law, and U.S. Senator Arthur Pue Gorman (1839–1906) […]

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Campaign Button

Baltimore Badge & Novelty Co. Baltimore, Maryland c.1905 or 1911 Metal, paper, celluloid Maryland Center for History and Culture, 1963.2.50 […]

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1906

Baltimore hosts the National American Woman Suffrage Association’s annual convention at the Lyric Theater. National suffrage figures include: Susan B. […]

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1909

Edith Houghton Hooker (1879–1948), one of the first women ever accepted into Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, establishes the […]

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1909

Maryland Attorney General Isaac Lobe Straus (1871–1946) and other prominent lawyers draft a new disenfranchising plan that would become the […]

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1909

African American residents of Annapolis are disenfranchised per the Grandfather Clause in the city code. This rule would later be […]

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“Suffragette Vote-Getting: The easiest way”

Dunston Weiler Lithograph Co. 1909 New York Postcard University of Norther Iowa, Palczewski Suffrage Postcard Archive Not only did pro- […]

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Just Government League of Maryland

Unknown photographer Columbus, Ohio c.1912–1914 Maryland Center for History and Culture, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Z24.206 The Just Government League […]

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1911

The Digges Amendment, authored by State Delegate Walter Digges (1877–1934), is defeated by voters in a referendum. The amendment to […]

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Envelope

c. 1911-1920 Paper Maryland Historical Society, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Political Ephemera Collection, R3.8

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The Maryland Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage

The Maryland Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage is established in Baltimore. Katherine Barker Garrett (1885–1961), wife of Olympian and segregationist […]

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1912-1920

Maryland Suffrage News Maryland Historical Society, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, MAP.M414 The Maryland Suffrage News is established as the official […]

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1912

Campaign Button and Ribbon Baltimore Badge & Button Co. Baltimore, Maryland c. 1912 Metal, paper, celluloid, silk Maryland Historical Society, […]

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“Looking Backward”

Laura E. Foster New York: Life Magazine Publishing Co. 1912 Photomechanical print Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-02940 […]

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1913

Cardinal James Gibbons (1834-1921), Archbishop of the Diocese of Baltimore, writes a letter of support to Katherine Barker Garrett and […]

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“Just like the men!”

Unknown artist New York: New York Tribune, 1913 (03-01) Newspaper South Central Regional Library Council, New York Heritage, YSC002_050 This […]

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1913-1915

“Suffrage Pilgrims” of Maryland’s Just Government League march across Baltimore, areas of southern Maryland, and Garrett and Allegany Counties, gathering […]

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1915

Druid Hill Avenue neighbors Augusta T. Chissell (1880–1973) and Margaret Briggs Gregory Hawkins (1877–1969) begin holding meetings of the Progressive […]

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1915

In Myers v. Anderson, the voting rights of an African American Civil War veteran and citizen of Annapolis are restored […]

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“Women are too sentimental for jury duty”

Kenneth Russell Chamberlain New York: Puck Publishing Corporation, 1915 January 23 Photomechanical print Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, […]

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1917

Faculty and students from the University of Maryland and Goucher College join fellow suffragists of the National Woman’s Party’s College-Day […]

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1917-1918

More than 35,000 women serve in the U.S. military at home and overseas during World War I. Many more leave […]

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Voting impact year

1920

The 19th Amendment is ratified, granting women the right to vote.

Your Voting Status

Voting Approved

1920

February: Despite intense pressure from Maryland suffragists across the state, the Maryland State Legislature rejects the federal 19th Amendment for […]

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1920

August: The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote […]

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1920

November: Maryland women vote for the first time. 

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Badge

c.1920 Metal, silk Maryland Center for History and Culture, 1973.11.235 This badge was worn by a Maryland delegate to the […]

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1921

Mary Risteau (1890–1978), a former school teacher and farm manager living in Harford County, becomes the first woman elected to […]

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1921

The League of Women Voters of Maryland is established to help newly enfranchised women exercise their right to vote. 

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1922

In Leser v. Garnett, the suit challenging the legality of the 19th Amendment in Maryland rises to the United States […]

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1935

Mary Risteau becomes the first woman elected to the Maryland State Senate, serving as Chairman for the Committee of Agriculture […]

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1941

Maryland informally ratifies the 19th Amendment, twenty-one years after passage. It would not be fully certified for many more years. 

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1943

The Magnuson Act allows Chinese immigrants to vote. 

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Campaign Badge

c. 1952 or 1956 Paper, metal, plastic Maryland Center for History and Culture, Gift of Philip Kahn, Jr., 1986.35.1 President […]

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1958

Verda Mae Welcome (1907–1990), a former teacher and community activist, is elected to the Maryland House of Delegates. The first […]

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1958

The state of Maryland formally certifies the 19th Amendment, 38 years after passage. 

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1964

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, sex, or national origin. In part, the legislation […]

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1965

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 fully enforces the 14th and 15th Amendments and prohibits state and local governments from […]

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Bumper Sticker

Bumper Sticker 1968 Vinyl Maryland Center for History and Culture, H. Furlong Baldwin Library, Political Ephemera Collection, R4.6 President Richard […]

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1971

In the wake of national protests against the draft and the Vietnam War, the 26th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution […]

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1973

Maryland ratifies the 15th Amendment, 103 years after passage.

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Voting impact year

1990

Allowed to vote under current law.

Your Voting Status

Voting Approved

1992

The city of Takoma Park, Maryland, allows non-citizens to vote in local elections. 

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1996

The U.S. Government passes the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which formally bans non-citizens from voting […]

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2013

The city of Takoma Park, Maryland, becomes the first municipality in the United States to lower the voting age to […]

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2016

The Maryland State Legislature overrides Governor Larry Hogan’s veto of SB 340/HB 980, which would restore the voting rights of […]

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2017

College Park, Maryland, becomes the eleventh municipality in the state to allow voting by non-citizens in local elections. 

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Your Voter ID

Margaret Brent

White woman & Immigrant from England

Margaret Brent (ca. 1601 - ca. 1671) was the first woman to request the right to vote in what was to become the United States. Born in England, Brent and three of her siblings emigrated to St. Mary’s City in November 1638. Within ten years of her arrival, she was a prominent businesswoman, and by 1657, she was one of the largest landowners in the colony. In 1645, Maryland began experiencing trouble in extension to the English Civil War happening across the Atlantic. Brent assisted Governor Leonard Calvert by helping to raise a group of armed volunteers and becoming the executor of his estate following his death in 1647. With Calvert’s affairs in disarray and his soldiers demanding payment for their service, Brent was appointed by the Provincial Court of Maryland to be Lord Baltimore’s lawyer, allowing her to respond by selling some of Lord Baltimore’s cattle to pay off all debts. During this process, on January 21, 1648, Brent petitioned the assembly for admittance for herself with two votes: one for herself and one as Lord Baltimore’s representative. She was refused and, despite having helped to save the colony during its crisis, the new governor condemned her actions. In response, the Maryland Assembly defended her in a letter to the governor, arguing “your estate was better for the colony’s safety at that time in her hands than in any man’s else.” Frustrated by the governor’s lack of support, Brent left Maryland for Virginia, where she spent the rest of her life. Under the 19th Amendment, Margaret Brent would finally have been given a vote; however, this would have been taken away again in 1996 with the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, which banned non-citizens from voting in federal elections. She would not have the right to vote today.

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