Few women were given right to vote in the United States prior to the passage of the 19th Amendment.
Minnesota became the 15th state to ratify the 19th Amendment when they did so on September 8, 1919. It took until 1920 for enough states to make the Amendment law. On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the 19th Amendment. On August 26, 1920 Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby added his signature, making it legal for many women across the country to vote.
When word came on August 26, 1920 that the 19th Amendment had been signed, women in the city of South St. Paul quickly began to prepare. A previous water bond referendum was reschedule for the vote to August 27, 1920, the day after the final signature was applied. With proper notice already given for the referendum, South St. Paul woke up early on August 27, 1920 to register, some waiting in line by 5:30 a.m. Nearly 90 women registered to vote that day in South St. Paul. There has been some discrepancy as to who the first woman to cast her vote was. As best we can tell, Miss Marguerite Newburgh is depicted in newspaper articles as having cast her vote first, then she took her role as election judge immediately after.
When voting on the water bond referendum, men and women voted in separate ballot boxes. Not knowing if something would change in relation to passage of the 19th Amendment, by voting in separate boxes meant that a new vote would not be required should the women's vote need to be thrown out. Because of that, the city of South St. Paul has a count of the vote in their minutes books, while the newspaper also recorded the vote by gender.
It is important to point out that while many women celebrated the passage of the 19th Amendment, it did not grant all women the same voting rights. White women enjoyed the freedom to vote, but minority women had to wait. Despite passage, many obstacles and barriers were implemented to keep minorities, both men and women, from exercising their right to vote.
This "first in the nation" event was recognized by a resolution passed by the Minnesota State Senate in S.R. No. 5, June 16, 2006. In 2020, the Dakota County Historical Society worked with TPT - Twin Cities to create a video on this important history. You can view it by clicking here (please note, you will be redirected to the TPT website