Minnesota and Dakota County played key roles in the history of suffrage.
In 1881, the Minnesota Woman Suffrage Association was founded in Hastings, Minn. to promote and obtain suffrage. Decades later, South St. Paul women became the first in the country to vote after passage of the 19th Amendment when they registered at the polls to vote on August 27, 1920. Newspaper articles covered this historic event, some even specifying Fox film corporation having crews on scene to get reel footage.
DCHS has spent many years trying to track down the footage of that day with no luck...until recently. Over the past five years, DCHS staff contacted 20-30 repositories attempting to locate the footage with no leads. Suddenly, in March 2022, DCHS staff member Rebecca Snyder, and her husband David Schreier, were watching a PBS documentary on suffrage when they saw unidentified footage of Marguerite Newburgh. Briefly, in a montage of various women voting, she was shown dropping her ballot into the ballot box. Recognizing her dress and pose from the still photos of August 27th, this began another month-long task of trying to identify exactly who the footage came from.
With great excitement, we can share that the footage has been found and we have secured the rights to this footage.
**Please note, we are working to get these videos operable on our website. In the meantime, you can view the videos on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/dakotahistory).**
In this snippet, Marguerite Newburgh is shown cutoff (left), followed by Kate Michelmore (center) and Erna Fearing (right).
In this scene, Marguerite Newburgh is seen posing with her ballot, before dropping it into the ballot box and walking to exit offscreen.
This footage has been hidden to the public, as those who held (and hold) it are unaware of its significance. We have secured rights to this footage for $1,500 and want to make it available to the public. You can find the very short clips below, as we continue to seek out the original footage that we hope, is much longer and shows more women!
If you would like to help offset the cost of obtaining this footage, you can make a contribution below. Any funds that exceed the $1,500 we paid to secure the footage will be used in future suffrage related events and in honoring women voters.
History of Suffrage
Women's suffrage in the United States began back in 1840 when Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton were denied entry to the World Anti-Slavery Convention. The two were joined by Mary M'Clintock, Martha Coffin Wright and Jane Hunt to discuss the necessity for suffrage and what came from these discussions was the first suffrage convention. The Seneca Falls Convention was held on July 19 & 20, 1848 in Seneca Falls, N.Y. Here, Stanton presented The Declaration of Sentiments, outlining the fight for social, civil and religious rights for women. More than 300 men and women attended the event.
At this time, the suffrage and abolitionist movements were closely tied together. After the 1860s, focus turned to suffrage for both races. After passage of the 15th Amendment in 1870, which gave Black men the right to vote, the suffrage movements that were so closely connected, distanced themselves. Many white women believed they should be granted rights to vote before Black men. Despite the passage of the 15th Amendment, not Black citizens were met with discriminatory practices that impacted their ability to vote, primarily in the southern states.
it is important to also note that some women were able to vote in various locations throughout the country based on local laws. In some instances, suffrage was granted to women in select states and territories, or women were allowed to vote in the local elections. Suffrage continued to be fought for at the national level.
Once achieved in 1920 with passage of the 19th Amendment, not all women were able to exercise their right to vote. In 1920, it was predominantly white women were given the right to vote, as some minority women were denied their right to vote for many decades. In Minnesota, Black women were able to vote, but in southern states, discriminatory policies kept men and women of color from voting. Some policies included literacy tests, poll taxes, and racial covenants.
In 1924, Native Americans were granted citizenship, but still could not vote in Minnesota until 1960. Asian American women were not able to vote until 1952, when the Immigration and Nationality Act granted them citizenship. African American women remained unable to fully vote without barrier until 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act.